In the order of events regarding the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy respecting the end time, and in fact, the times in which we now live, the Rapture of the Church is the next great event on the horizon of time. If the calendars are correct, the church is now 1,988 years old. The church began on the day of Pentecost which was some 33 years after the birth of Christ. So, we deduct the 33 years from 2021, which gives us the number of 1,988 as it regards the age of the modern church. In other words, we are living in the last days of the Church Age, which means that Bible prophecy concerning end-time events is about to happen as it regards the work of God on this earth. Every 2,000 years or every 1,000 years, something tremendous has taken place. It has been this way from the dawn of time. Momentous things have definitely happened at other times, but the hallmark events took place at the timeframes mentioned.
Critical Events Beginning With Abraham
From the time of Adam and Eve to the time of Abraham was approximately 2,000 years. At this critical time, The Lord gave to the patriarch the greatest word that humanity would have ever known. It was the word of Justification by Faith and its meaning. The Scripture says regarding this, “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
Now, let’s quote it in its entirety, “And he (being Abraham) believed in the LORD (in other words, he exercised faith, believing what the Lord told him); And he (The Lord) counted it to him (Abraham) for righteousness.” This is one of the single most important Scriptures in the entirety of The Word of God. In this simple term, “(Abraham) believed in The LORD”, we find the meaning of the Justification by Faith. Abraham was saved by grace through faith, not by his good works. There is no other way of salvation anywhere in the Bible. God demands righteousness. However, it is righteousness afforded strictly by Christ and Christ alone. Anything else is self-righteousness and totally unacceptable to God. When the sinner believes God’s testimony about His beloved Son, he is not only declared righteous, but he is made a son and an heir.
Concerning Abraham, Jesus also said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” (John 8:56) In the greatest revelation of Justification by Faith, given to Abraham by God, he was made to understand that this great redemption plan was wrapped up, not in a philosophy but rather, in a man, the Man Christ Jesus and what He would do at The Cross. The patriarch rejoiced in that.
A thousand years from the time of Abraham, we find that David came on the scene. This was another phenomenal time in history. The Lord informed the king that, through his family (David’s family), the Messiah would come. There could be no greater honor than that. The following is what The Lord told David,
11 And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the LORD telleth thee that he will make thee an house.
-In Genesis 49:10, through Jacob, The Lord promised that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah, and now he selects the family in Judah that will bring forth the Messiah, and David is clearly chosen. David had thought to build The Lord a house, but instead, The Lord tells him that He (The Lord) will build David a house.
12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
-This speaks of The Lord Jesus Christ.
13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
-As stated, this is an unconditional promise. It will most definitely come to pass.
14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:
-This pertains to Solomon and those who would follow after him in the lineage of David, through whom the Messiah would come, which pertains to the first phrase of the verse.
15 But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.
-This means, whatever happened, the Messiah would come through the lineage of David. As well, this one verse tells us that Solomon did make Heaven his eternal home. In other words, it answers the question of whether this man was saved when he died.
16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
-And so shall it be in Christ and will be established at the Second Coming.
17 According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.
-No doubt, we only have a small portion here of what Nathan actually said, but yet the full ingredients.
2 Samuel 7:11-17
The Lord Jesus Christ
About 1,000 years from David, Our Lord was born to the virgin Mary, which was the greatest event in human history up to that time. God became man for one purpose, and that was to go to The Cross in order that man might be redeemed. This means that the price for redemption was, thereby, paid and paid in full. Concerning His birth, the Scripture says:
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused (engaged) to Joseph, before they came together (before they were married), she was found with child of the Holy Ghost (by decree of The Holy Spirit).
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
-to quietly break the engagement
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS (Savior): for he shall save his people from their sins.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Isaiah 7:14)
24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
-immediately went ahead with the wedding ceremony
25 And knew her not
-had no sexual relations with her
till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS (meaning Savior).
-After the birth of Christ, Joseph did have relations with Mary with four other boys being born and several sisters (Matthew 13:55-56).
Of course, the birth of Christ ,which pertained to the incarnation of Our Lord (God becoming man), also included His ministry and above all, the sacrifice that He paid at The Cross of Calvary, which was the very reason He came. It was the greatest event in human history, and it took place about 1,000 years after David.
The Rapture of the Church
Two thousand years from Christ are almost concluded. As it regards the Word of God, the next great event that will take place is the Rapture of the Church. You must understand that the words Rapture and Resurrection are actually two words explaining the very same event, the coming of Our Lord to take away His people. Of course, this will include every child of God who has ever lived from the dawn of time plus all those who are alive in the world at the time of that great event. Most believers do not understand that the two words, Rapture and Resurrection, actually refer to the same event.
Paul explains this great event, which we will deal with in this book, in 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4 and 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2. He also deals with it at length in 1 Corinthians Chapter 15. So, when believers say, as some do, that they do not believe that there is going to be any such thing as a rapture, they should ask the question, “Do you believe in the Resurrection?” Most of them, if not all, would say, “Most definitely yes.” Well, if they believe in the Resurrection, they believe in the Rapture, for they are one in the same. This reading will spiritually open up to you the great doctrine of the Rapture as well as the rise of the antichrist with both events very near to being brought to pass. Therefore, pray that you would pursue the information very carefully because it pertains to the resurrection of every believer who has ever lived and who is alive at present.
I Would Not Have You to be Ignorant, Brethren
“…I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
The heading proclaims one of Paul’s oft used expressions. Actually, the expression generally precedes a very important statement, or one might say, greater clarification of a particular doctrine. The apostle had not been able to be with the Thessalonians long. Therefore, he was not able to flesh out many things that he, no doubt, told them, and thus, they only had partial knowledge. It is understandable as it regards the Thessalonians, and in fact, all of that particular day and time. There was no New Testament then, with understanding of the New Covenant being very sketchy to say the least.
1 Thessalonians was probably written some time between AD 50 and AD 53. At that time, there had probably been only two books or epistles written, Matthew and James. 1 Thessalonians is thought to be Paul’s first epistle, with Peter not writing his until some years later, and John writing his many years later. So, the point I’m attempting to make is that there was some excuse for these people being ignorant of the Word of The Lord. Only when these epistles written by Paul began to make their presence felt, did the people begin to gather some understanding of these great doctrines of the Word of God. We look at these things now, after the fact. However, during Paul’s time, all were in the making.
No Excuse Now
Having said that, whereas one could say there was an excuse then, there is no excuse now. If believers are ignorant now of the Word of God, it is strictly because of a lack of interest. No one should ascribe it to anything else. Sadly, and regrettably, the truth is that most Christians are ignorant of The Word. This is sadder still when one realizes that we are speaking of the single most important thing in the world. There is nothing more important to you as a believer than learning and understanding the Word of God. It has to do with your past, your present, and your future. In fact, the Word of God is the only revealed Truth in the world today and ever has been. Spiritual problems are the great problems of the human race. To be sure, these problems flow over into every other aspect of life. In other words, spiritual difficulties, which arise mostly because of a lack of understanding of The Word, have an impact on everything else. Other particulars may cause us problems, such as financial difficulties, etc., but those things cannot affect our spiritual standing, at least if we do not allow them such latitude. However, spiritual problems impact every single thing we are and every single thing we do. So, if that is neglected, it affects all other things as well.
Be Diligent Concerning the Study of The Word
If I could get every Christian to get out our commentaries as well as our books and read them, I think I can say, without any fear of contradiction, that it would change the church for the better, and I mean a great deal better. Naturally, I am prejudiced as it regards my own work. However, at the same time, if The Lord told me to do this, and I definitely know that He did, then the material is needed by the body of Christ.
The Cross of Christ
Proper instruction concerning The Cross of Christ is definitely portrayed in most commentaries with the exception of two or three. However, the information given is extremely small by comparison to this which The Lord has given us and which we have done our best to portray in our writings, especially in the epistles of Paul. As it regards The Cross, The Lord has given us a revelation that portrays the voracity of the Finished Work of Christ as has little previously been done. To be sure, the revelation is not anything new, but actually, that which was originally given to the apostle Paul. No doubt, it has been given to others down through the centuries as well. A revelation from The Lord is a powerful happening. I think one can safely say without any fear of contradiction that no instruction in the world can equal such. It is as if The Holy Spirit imprints the subject matter on one’s mind and in one’s spirit to such an extent that it becomes crystal clear, and then The Holy Spirit continues to add to what He has already given. That’s how The Holy Spirit works regarding The Cross of Christ and other salient material. I know what this revelation has done for my life and I know what it will do for anyone who will avail himself of this given by The Holy Spirit, even as we have attempted to portray this information.
Concerning Them Which are Asleep
The heading concerns the many millions down through the centuries who have passed away all the way back to the beginning. The Thessalonian Christians, so recently converted from paganism, were apparently deeply troubled. Paul had told them about the Rapture of The Church but evidently, he had not spent much time on the subject, which left the Thessalonians with many questions. It seems that the two most pressing questions were:
1. Was the Rapture going to take place immediately?
2. What about the believers who had died? Would dying keep them from having a part in this event?
The first question, Paul would not fully answer until his second letter. However, he would address the second question now.
The New Covenant, which was given to Paul, fleshed out greatly that which had only been in shadow in the Old Testament. These new revelations concerning the Resurrection are as follows:
1. Every believer who has died will come back with Christ in the Resurrection (Rapture) and will be given a glorified body according to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 35-58; Philippians 3:21.
2. All who are alive and redeemed at the time of the Trump will be instantly changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10; Philippians 3:21
3. The Rapture of The Lord will not come all the way back to the earth, only somewhere at or below approximately 6,000 feet. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:7
4. The Lord will not send an angel at The Rapture, but rather, will come Himself. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:23, 51-58
5. The righteous dead will be changed first of all, and then the living will be changed. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Philippians 3:21; 1 Corinthians 15:23, 51-58
6. Every believe who has ever lived from the time of Abel to those living at the time of the Rapture will be instantly changed and given glorified bodies. 2 Corinthians 5:1-10; 2 Thessalonians 2:7; John 14:1-3
7. The two terms, Rapture and Resurrection, are simply two different terms for the same event, so if one believes in the Resurrection, then one automatically believes in the Rapture.
That You Sorrow Not
The heading does not deny sorrow as it regards the passing of loved ones, but rather that it’s not the type of sorrow expressed by those who do not know The Lord. Being human, we feel things, and we feel them keenly. However, that is a far cry from those who face things with despair and hopelessness. The following constitutes some of the reasons Christians have for looking at things differently.
The Believer’s Hopes
The word hope as used in the Bible, carries with it a slightly different connotation than the manner in which it is presently used. Now, it means “maybe or possibly so” meaning it may or may not happen. However, the way it is expressed in the Bible does not pertain to guesswork. The Greek word for hope is elpis which means to anticipate, usually with pleasure, to expect and to do so with confidence. In other words, the outcome is not in doubt, but rather the date and time of fulfillment are in doubt.
What is promised by God, and we speak of good things, is definitely coming. Incidentally, Paul used a gentle, euphemistic expression for the dead, “them which are asleep.” The present tense may also suggest “those who are from time to time falling asleep.” Since this figurative language for death was common in both Judaism and writings of pagan Greeks who had no concept of resurrection, it is impossible to base any doctrinal significance upon it. The ideas that it suggests, such as death without fear or sting according to 1 Corinthians 15:55-57, actually refer to the fact of dying and not what follows death. As Paul implies, it is no different than one falling asleep. Other than the act of dying, it carries no other implications. The idea, which we will discuss more fully momentarily, is that there is no justification for the notion of soul-sleep as taught by some. As well, some claim from this passage that Paul is saying that there should not be any sorrow at all. However, that is incorrect. The sorrow here prohibited is despairing and an unbelieving sorrow. We are forbidden to sorrow as those who have no hope, no belief in a blessed resurrection.
The tears of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus have authorized and sanctified Christian sorrow, one might say. Paul observes Calvin, lifts up the minds of believers to a consideration of the resurrection lest they should indulge in excessive grief on occasion on the death of their relatives. For it were unseemingly that there should be no difference in them and unbelievers who put no end or measure to their grief. For this reason, that in death they recognize nothing but destruction. Those who abuse this testimony so as to establish among Christians stoical indifference, that is an iron hardness, will find nothing of this nature in Paul’s words.
Even as Others Which Have No Hope
The heading concerns those who do not know The Lord and who will not have part in the first resurrection of life and therefore, no hope for Heaven. The pagans of old, which of course included those of Paul’s day, had no hope whatsoever as it concerned life after death. In fact, they were bitterly opposed to a resurrection, thinking that it meant somehow to come back as they had previously been. With life being hard, even very hard in those times, they did not want to do this all over again, which is somewhat understandable, and yet they expressed terrible grief at parting simply because so far as they had any evidence, they would never see their loved ones again. It was on this account, or at least in part, that the heathens indulged in expressions of such excessive grief. When their friends died, they hired men to play in a mournful manner on a pipe or trumpet or women to howl and lament in a dismal manner. They beat their breasts and uttered loud shrieks, rent their garments, pulled out their hair, cast dust on their heads or sat down in ashes.
Understanding that this was the culture in which the Thessalonians had previously been involved, it is not improbable that, on the death of their pious friends, some among them kept up these expressions of excessive sorrow. To prevent this, and to mitigate their sorrow, the apostle referred them to the bright hopes that Christianity had revealed and pointed them to the future glories of reunion with the departed, pious dead.
The Hopelessness of a Life Without God
From this, we must learn several things. We learn that the world without Christ is destitute of hope. They that have no hope of a future state is just as true of the heathen world now as it was of the ancient pagans. Please understand, those without Christ have no evidence that there is any such future state of blessedness and without such evidence, there can be no hope. When the children of this world lose a friend, the excessive grief is not to be wondered at. They bury their bones in the grave, and for all they know or believe, they part with such a friend forever. The wife, the son, the daughter, they consign to silence, to decay and to dust, not expecting to ever meet them again. They look forward to no glorious resurrection when that body shall rise. And when they shall be reunited to part no more. It is no wonder that they weep excessively, for who would not weep when he believes that he parts with his friends forever. It is only the hope of future blessedness that can mitigate this sorrow. An experience with Christ reveals a brighter world, a world where all the saved shall be reunited, where the bonds of love shall be made stronger than they were and where they shall never be severed again. It is only this hope that can soothe the pains of grief at parting. Only when we can look forward to a better world and feel that we shall see them again, and love them again forever, that our tears are made dry.
The Christian, therefore, when he loses a Christian friend, should not sorrow as others do. We do feel, indeed, the loss of our loved ones as keenly as those who do not know Christ. We feel the absence of their well-known faces and the warmth of sweet voices of friendship and love. For an experience with Christ does not blunt the sensibility of the soul or make the heart unfeeling. As stated, Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus. And salvation in no way prevents the warm, gushing expressions of sorrow when God comes into a family and removes a friend. However, this sorrow should not be like that of the world. Our grief must not:
a. Rise from the feeling that there is no future union
b. Be accompanied by repining or complaining
c. Be excessive or beyond that which God designs that we should feel
It should be calm, submissive and patient. It should be that which is connected with the steady confidence in God. And it should be mitigated by the hope of a future glorious union in Heaven. The eye of the weeper should look up, through his tears, to God. The heart of the sufferer should acquiesce in Him even in the unsearchable mysteries of His dealings and feel that all is right.
It is a horrible thing to die without hope, to have no hope for ourselves and to leave no hope to our surviving friends that we have gone to such a better place. Such is the condition of the whole heathen world and such is the state of those who die even in the so-called Christian lands who have no evidence that their peace is made with God. Barnes said “I love my friends, my father, my mother, my wife, and my children. I would not have them go forth and weep over my grave as those who have no hope in my death. I would have their sorrow for my departure alleviated by the belief that my soul is happy with The Lord even when they commit my cold clay to the dust and to be sure, were there no other reason for being a child of God, this would be well worth all the effort which it requires to become one.”
The Time of Death
As a minister of the Gospel, I have preached many funerals. Almost all of these have been for those who have known The Lord and have made Him their Savior. Even though the passing of friends and loved ones and any fellow Christian, for that matter, is grievous, still, there is at the same time, a certain joy at their passing. You know beyond the shadow of a doubt that they have gone to a better place. At that moment, they are with Christ, beyond the veil of tears and sorrow. As well, we also know and realize that there will be a meeting some glad day, a meeting that will never end and a meeting that will never again know a parting. So, as we have stated, there is sorrow, but in the midst of the sorrow, still, at the same time, there is a joy, and it’s all because of what Christ did at The Cross and the Resurrection. Because He lives, we shall live also.
Then again, when I have preached a funeral of one who does not know God, who died without hope, and made no profession of faith, and who was snatched out unexpectedly, the awfulness of such a time knows no bounds. What can one say? What can one do? The words “no hope,” which The Holy Spirit gave to Paul, adequately and terribly describe the situation. Loved ones reach out for some kind of hope, but what kind of hope can be given them? They want some word that gives some sunlight in the darkness, but outside of Christ, there is none. Let the reader read those words slowly. Outside of Christ, there is no hope. Christ has faced that dark void and that terrible enemy called death. He has gone before us, and as a result, the sting has been removed from death. However, it’s only those who know Him, who have accepted Him, and who have made Him the Lord and the love of their lives who have the blessed hope. As serious as it is, as troublesome as it is, and even as dark as it is, I must say it again, without Christ, there is no hope.
“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14)
For If We Believe That Jesus Died and Rose Again
For Christians, relief from sorrow is related to what the future holds. Just as Jesus died and rose again, so will those who sleep in Him be raised when God brings them to Heaven with Jesus at His coming. The fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection guarantees, as its sequel, the eventual resurrection of the dead in Christ. This, in effect, is the same as the guarantee of His return in 1 Thessalonians 1:10. It is significant that Paul does not refer to Jesus’ death as sleep. The difference between Jesus’ experience and that of believers is that Jesus really endured actual separation from God at the time of His death for the world’s sins. Because of His real death, Christian death has been transformed into sleep. And that refers to the actual act of one dying, not what happens after death. If it is to be noticed, Paul did not say that God will raise, as it refers to the saints at that time who have died. but instead, as stated, that God will bring the saints with Jesus. He used the phrase “God bring with Him” for a particular reason. All saints who have died are with Jesus in Heaven in their soul and spirit form while their bodies have gone back to dust. That body, however, will be resurrected and glorified at the Rapture. It will then be reunited with the soul and spirit.
The Death and Resurrection of Christ
The resurrection of Christ refers to the very foundation of Christianity. In fact, the death and resurrection of Christ is the proof of life after death and a glorified state for all saints in that life, which incidentally, will never end. The very fundamental of salvation is that the saint believes that Jesus died and rose again. This is the key to all Christian hope. The word “if” does not imply any question of that belief. In fact, it actually should have been translated “since.” The idea is this: as surely as we believe in this which has been stated, so will believers who have died be with Jesus when He returns. However, the following fact must be noted, the belief in Christ’s death and resurrection is not a mere mental acceptance of these things. It also involves a personal identification with Jesus in His death and resurrection, even as He identified with us. The death of Jesus Christ is the assurance of salvation for all who will believe (Mathew 26:28; Romans 5:6-11; 1 Peter 2:24). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the assurance of justification and resurrection for all men, at least all who will believe (John 14:19; Romans 5:10; 6:5-8; 1 Corinthians 15:4-23; 2 Timothy 2:11). The apostle’s argument proceeds on the supposition that Christ and believers are one body, of which Christ is the head and believers are the members. And that, consequently, what happens to the head must happen also to the members. In fact, as stated, our knowledge and belief of a future state, and especially of the resurrection is founded on the proof of the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15). Incidentally, Paul’s using the human name of Our Lord Jesus links His humanity with ours. Also, as Paul mentions here the necessity of believing. The idea is not merely believing that Jesus rose but believing that the death and resurrection of the Savior is connected with the resurrection of the saints, that the one follows from the other and that the one is as certain as the other. The doctrine of the resurrection of the saints so certainly follows from that of the resurrection of Christ that if the one is believed, the other must be believed as well.
Identification with Christ
As I alluded several paragraphs back, the word “believe” here presupposes the identification of the saint with The Lord in His death and resurrection, that is, if He is to identify with us in our death and resurrection. As should be obvious, this is extremely important. There are millions of people who die who have never accepted Christ as their Savior and have never identified with Him in His death and resurrection. But yet, they want Him to identify with them in their death and resurrection. It is not to be. We know that Jesus identified with us by the very fact that He came down to this world, actually for that very purpose. The incarnation, which refers to God becoming man, was carried out for one purpose only and that was to identify with lost humanity in order that lost humanity might be saved. Whether God could have done this thing another way is a matter of conjecture. However, we know the way that it was done, which was through His incarnation and death on a cross and His resurrection. This was the best way. This, what we have just said in a few words, still is of such a magnitude as to defy description. That God would pay such a price to redeem those who, in fact, did not love Him at all, is beyond the ability of man to grasp.
The Representative Man
When Jesus died on The Cross, He identified with us in our lost condition. He became our substitute which is portrayed in Isaiah Chapter 53. However, as well, He was also our representative Man which Paul referred to as the last Adam and the second man (1 Corinthians 15:45-47) which is also described in Psalm 22. As we’ve said previously, as our substitute, He died for us. As our representative man, He died as us. In other words, Jesus died as a sinner, suffering the full effect of the broken law which was death (Romans 6:23). And yet, even though He died as a sinner, He was not a sinner. In fact, never having sinned or failed to any degree in even the slightest aspect. The Scripture plainly says of Jesus “…who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,…” (Hebrews 7:26). So, when we say that He died as our representative Man, even as a sinner, that does not mean that He was a sinner because in fact, He was totally separate from sinners, having never sinned. Still, He suffered the terrible curse of sin on our behalf, in effect, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. In other words, He took the full brunt of the penalty that we should have taken. So, He identified with us in totality which means that Jesus came to this world for the very purpose and reason of this identification which necessitated His death on The Cross. The Cross was ever in view, ever a necessity, and ever the means by which this great thing would be done (1 Peter 1:18-20).
Identification With Him in His Death and Resurrection
In as much as He identified with us, for us to receive what He came to give, we must, as well, totally and completely identify with Him. In fact, as His identification with us was total and complete, our identification with Him must be in the same vein. This is what constitutes real salvation and is an absolute necessity. That is, if one is to be saved. There is no other way (John 3:16). So, what type of identification are we speaking about? Are we speaking of identifying with Him regarding His perfect morals? What about His ethical example? What about His princely life? Are we to identify with Him in humility? Are we to identify with Him in His kindness? So, what exactly do we mean by “identifying with Him?” In truth, if the world recognizes Jesus at all, it is in identification in these things that we have mentioned such as morals and ethics. However, as noteworthy as that is, and as much as Jesus is definitely the perfect example in all things, still identification with Him in that capacity will not save or deliver anyone. In fact, the identification that is demanded is mostly rejected by the world, and regrettably, even by much of the church. The identification of which we speak must be our identifying with Jesus in His death and resurrection (The Cross). And that’s what stops the world cold, and as stated, even much of the church. To identify with Christ as a good man or something of that nature, is perfectly acceptable by the world. But to identify with Him in His death on The Cross, with all of its attendant horror and humiliation, presents itself as a great barrier for most of the world.
What Does Identification with Jesus in His Death Actually Mean?
First of all, it means that one must definitely believe that Jesus Christ is God and that His becoming man was for the express purpose of redeeming mankind by going to The Cross. He must believe that The Cross was God’s way of redemption, i.e., the death of Christ on The Cross. As well, the sinner must believe the he is a sinner who is lost and undone without God, with no way to save himself and no means to do so, even if he had a way, which he doesn’t. The sinner must believe that Jesus Christ died for him, actually having taken his place and then accept Him as Savior and Lord. In fact, this identification that God demands is of such magnitude, as stated, as to defy all description. It goes so far as to place the believing sinner literally, at least in the mind of God, in the death of Christ on The Cross (Romans 6:3). That’s what Paul was talking about when he often used the phrase “in Christ” according to Romans 8:2. Actually, this identification is so close, so total, and so complete, that The Holy Spirit used the words “baptized into His death” when referring to believing sinners. Without the believing sinner dying, himself, on a cross which would have done him no good even if he had, God provided this way for man to be saved.
Also, we must identify with Him, not only in His crucifixion, but as well, in His burial (Romans 6:4). In fact, this part of our identification is necessary in order to complete the purpose of identification with Jesus in His death. Identifying with Him in His death proclaims that, in the eyes of God, we have paid the penalty of the broken law which is death. Incidentally, this payment was owed to God because of man’s terrible crimes against Him. In being buried with Him, this refers to all of the past life before conversion, all sins, all iniquities, all transgressions, and all rebellion against God. In other words, every single thing that pertained to the unredeemed state. All and without exception, are buried with Him, which means that it can never be charged to us again. Identification with Him in His death guarantees identification with Him in His burial which puts the old life out of sight. However, our identification does not stop there, but also includes His resurrection. As we died and were buried with Him, we were also resurrected with Him, in fact, in Him in newness of life (Romans 6:4-5). Therefore, to believe on Christ, even as Paul states here, this is what it actually means. As He is totally and completely identified with us, we are to totally and completely identify with Him. Knowing this was not literally done, and knowing yet that it must be done, and in fact, was done at our conversion, how was it all brought about?
The ingredient that does all of this, that puts us into His death, burial, and resurrection, is faith. What exactly do we mean by that? Of course, God knows that we could not literally die in Christ, as is obvious. So, the manner in which He allows this benefit, this glorious redemption, is strictly through faith, which means that we simply believe in what Jesus did there on The Cross on our behalf. That is all that God requires. In fact, if we attempt to do anything else to earn this right or merit this right, instead of it having the desired effect, it will actually have the very opposite effect. Works on our behalf of any fashion will nullify the grace of God which, in effect, stops our faith (Galatians 2:20-21). Faith cannot operate at all in the position of works. As Paul says over and over again, if it’s faith, it’s not works, and if it’s works, it’s not faith (Romans 4:4-6). In fact, this is the problem with the world and much of the church. Man attempts to earn salvation, which is impossible anyway, but of which there is no need. For, Jesus has already paid it all. So, The Lord only asks that we have faith in this that Christ has done, which means to believe fully in this, taking upon ourselves the Person of Christ in every respect. In other words, to properly believe on Christ means to accept what He did on the Cross and Resurrection on our behalf. It’s that simple. Paul said in respect to this, “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:” (Galatians 1:4)
Even So Them Also Which Sleep in Jesus Will God Bring With Him
The heading refers to the Rapture of the Church, or one might say, the Resurrection of all believers as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 15. Without going into detail, this phrase tells us what happens to believers upon death. The moment the Christian dies, he instantly goes to be with Christ (Philippians 1:20-24). This is made possible by what Christ did at The Cross and in His Resurrection. Before The Cross, when believers died, they did not go to Heaven to be with Christ, but rather, were taken down into Paradise, which in effect, was a part of hell, separated from the burning part only by a great gulf. Incidentally, this is in the heart of the earth and is still there but is now empty according to Luke 16:19-31. In fact, all the righteous souls who went to Paradise, which included every believer before The Cross, were held captive by the devil against their wills (Hebrews 2:14-15). Actually, satan had hopes of keeping them there forever and would have done so but for The Cross.
Satan could hold them there simply because a sin-debt was still upon them. Actually, they were saved because of faith in Christ, but due to the fact that the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins, the sin-debt remained. When Jesus died on The Cross, the sin-debt was completely paid and settled, and that means for every single person who has ever lived who will believe (John 3:16). Now, satan had no more claim on these righteous souls. Consequently, Jesus had the legal right to go down there and liberate them, which He did, even as it tells us in Ephesians 4:8-10. Now, when believers die, they instantly go to be with The Lord Jesus, at least as it regards the spirit and soul. The body is placed in the ground, or somewhere, there to await the Resurrection when it will be joined in glorified form with the soul and the spirit which will come back with Christ at The Resurrection. That’s what Paul is meaning when he says, “…even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” As well, as it regards the physical body, we all know that it goes back to dust with actually nothing left, so what kind of body will the resurrected saint have? Paul answered that by saying, “But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.” (1 Corinthians 15:38)
Soul Sleep Not Taught in Scripture
Some teach that the moment the believer dies, his soul and spirit, along with his body, go to the grave where they sleep until the coming resurrection. Nothing like that is taught in Scripture. All of the Scriptures that speak of such are referring to the body only and not to the soul and spirit of the individual. As stated, before The Cross, at death the soul and spirit went down into Paradise, with the body going to the grave. As stated, these were liberated from that place by Christ after His death on The Cross. Since The Cross, the soul and spirit of all believers go to be with The Lord at death, there awaiting the resurrection of the body, which in fact, does sleep according to Philippians 1:23; Luke 16:19-31; Ephesians 4:8-10. While the Word of God definitely teaches that the flesh or the human body goes back to the dust of the earth, and in effect, sleeps in the dust of the earth until the Resurrection, in no place does the Bible teach that the soul, or the soul and the spirit, sleep. In fact, the soul and the spirit cannot die, and also do not sleep. It is only the physical body of the human being that can die, and in fact, does die. Incidentally, the physical body has not yet been redeemed and is thereby awaiting the Resurrection whether of life or damnation. The soul and the spirit of man cannot die, and as stated, cannot sleep because it does not need to sleep (Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:19-21; Matthew 9:24; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). In order to fully express what Paul is saying here, words must be supplied. Christ is alive forevermore in the unseen Glory. The Christian dead are in Him and actively participating with Him. Therefore, they will not, and in fact, cannot miss the Parousia or Coming since God will bring them with Christ when He returns. Incidentally, all the unredeemed dead will remain in the grave until after the Kingdom Age which will be approximately 1,000 years from the first resurrection of life. They will then be resurrected to stand at the Great White Throne Judgment and then they will be consigned to the lake of fire forever (Revelation 20:11-15).
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15)
For This We Say Unto You By The Word of The Lord
The authority that validates Paul’s affirmation in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 is nothing less than The Lord’s own Word. How this Word of The Lord came to Paul, we are not exactly told. However, every evidence points to The Lord personally revealing this to Paul (Galatians 1:11-12). The heading presents the doctrine of the Rapture of the Church as the Word of The Lord which all would do well to heed, as should be obvious. We are not speaking here of ideas or mere thoughts of men but rather, that which has been given by The Lord of Glory. Consequently, irrespective of what some say or what some believe, the Rapture of the Church is going to happen and in fact, is going to happen very soon.
Jesus of Nazareth
As we looked at Bible prophecy, to those who believe the Bible, it is obvious that the next great event to take place as it regards the fulfillment of end-time prophecies is the Rapture of the Church or the Resurrection of all believers. The terms are coterminous. At that time, every single believer who has ever lived will be raised from the dead with, as previously stated, their souls and spirits being united with a glorified body. The same will happen to all of those who are alive. Paul said:
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery;
-a new revelation given by The Holy Spirit to Paul concerning the Resurrection, i.e., Rapture
We shall not all sleep,
-At the time of the Resurrection or the Rapture, many Christians will be alive.
but we shall all be changed,
-both those who are dead and those who are alive
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,
-proclaims how long it will take for this change to take place
at the last trump:
-does not denote by use of the word “last” that there will be successive trumpet blasts but rather denotes that this is the close of things, referring to the Church Age
for the trumpet shall sound,
-It is the trump of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
and the dead shall be raised incorruptible,
-the sainted dead with no sin nature
and we shall be changed.
-put on the glorified body
53 For this corruptible
must put on incorruption,
-a glorified body with no sin nature
and this mortal
-subject to death
must put on immortality.
-will never die
54 So when this corruptible
shall have put on incorruption,
-the divine nature in total control by The Holy Spirit
and this mortal
-subject to death
shall have put on immortality,
-will never die
then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (Isaiah 25:8)
-the full benefits of The Cross will then be ours of which we now only have the first fruits (Romans 8:23)
1 Corinthians 15:51-54
The Great Tribulation
The argument rages, and always has, whether the church will go through the Great Tribulation. There is nothing in Scripture that indicates the church will either enter the Great Tribulation or pass through the Great Tribulation. In fact, Israel is given many signs that will warn her of the near approach of that period (Matthew 24). But the Gospels and the Epistles are entirely devoid of any sign given to the church concerning that question. The Great Tribulation is a time when the divine wrath is to be visited on the earth, and particularly, upon Israel. But the promise to the church is that it has been delivered from the wrath to come (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 5:8). The Bible, in fact, expressly states who will be the objects of the divine wrath during the Tribulation period, namely Israel and the ungodly of the Gentile nations. If the church is destined to suffer, surely the Bible would make note of that fact. Some claim that the church has to go through the Great Tribulation in order to be purified. Such thinking places the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ in a negative position. The Bible plainly teaches that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). If it takes the Great Tribulation to purify the church, what about the church through all the past generations? Emphatic no! Such thinking is foolishness. The truth is, purification comes about as one evidences faith in Christ and what Christ did for us at The Cross. Amen.
Little Interest in the Rapture
It’s a shame that many in the modern church have little interest in the Rapture. In fact, I think I can say without any fear of exaggeration that most don’t even believe in a coming Rapture. In fact, most don’t even know what they believe simply because it’s very little preached behind modern pulpits. Not the case here. In the last several decades, most of the so-called gospel that has been preached has placed the emphasis in this present world instead of in Heaven where it rightly belongs. The Holy Spirit is getting people ready for Heaven, actually, ready for Christ, while many preachers are attempting to get people ready for this present world. As should be obvious, the two do not go together. In fact, each one of these chapters in the epistle to the Thessalonians concludes with Paul pointing toward the Rapture of the Church. If The Holy Spirit was this serious about this all-important matter, and He definitely was and is, then it stands to reason that we should follow suit. I’m afraid that the lack of interest in the Rapture, and in fact, the downright denial by many of this coming great event, is a part of the great apostasy that will characterize the church at the very end of this age, and in fact, has already begun. Even though Christ is very eager to come and claim His own, many in the modern church are not eager at all for Him to come.
~May the mind of Christ my Savior live in me from day to day
~by His love and power controlling all I do and say.