Do you believe we are in the last days? Everywhere, people of all walks of life, are saying, “Yes, it sure seems like it.” Certainly, the world is getting crazier and more unstable, while political and social circumstances are lining up to reflect Biblical end-time descriptions more every day.
Today, we answer a question received from a ministry partner, Amy… regarding a critical aspect of the Rapture.
The question is: “What does it mean that the “dead in Christ” will rise first? Aren’t those who are dead already in Heaven?”
The Scripture referenced for this question is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
This is an important question that many struggle with. Yet, the answer gives us great hope. The key to understanding this event fully requires us to look at the whole of Scripture to learn what is true. Psalm 119:160 says, “The entirety of Your word is truth….”
Looking throughout Scripture for clues is like finding pieces of a puzzle. When we put the pieces together they form the answer to our question. And what an exciting picture it creates. Every believer, whether alive or dead at the time of the Rapture, will be part of this event.
We will only have time and space in this article to include a few of these puzzle pieces—but enough to clearly understand what this Scripture is describing.
In Thessalonians, we see that Paul’s readers were concerned that when Christ returns, those who had died previously would somehow miss out. The primary purpose of Paul’s message is to comfort those who had lost believing loved ones.
To identify who the “dead in Christ” are, we should note the context in which this phrase is found is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”
Those referred to as the “dead in Christ” are simply Christians who have died believing in Jesus as God’s Son, who placed their trust in Him. This verse also clarifies that those believers who died… will be reunited with their newly glorified bodies when the Rapture occurs.
Another portion of the answer comes from Paul again in Romans 8:11. “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
The above Scripture lets us know that the same power that raised the body of Jesus from the grave, will resurrect the bodies of all believers who have died. That same power will also instantly transform those believers who remain alive at the coming of the Lord.
In the time prior to Jesus being raised from the dead, the souls of believers who died went to an intermediate heaven called “Paradise,” also referred to as “Abraham’s Bosom”. After Jesus’ body was laid in the tomb—He went into Paradise—either in Spirit or in a glorified body—and brought all the Old Testament saints with Him to the third heaven (Ephesians 4:8-10). Ever since then, the spirit and soul of every believer who dies is taken immediately to Heaven to be with Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:8 tells us, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” This makes it clear that when our spirit departs from our body as a believer, we are with the Lord.
Another piece of the puzzle is found in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (believers who died). For since by man (Adam) came death, by Man (Jesus) also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” (Parenthesis added.)
When a believer dies today, their corpse enters the grave and “sleeps,” separated from their spirit and soul which never die but ascend to Heaven (Philippians 1:23; Luke 23:43). In Scripture, the term “falling asleep” refers to the believer’s death and the status of the body which stays on earth (waiting) until the Rapture.
For instance, when Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers, he said, “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Paul wasn’t referring to the falling asleep we do each night. He was describing the death of Christians.
The message of this passage is a message of hope. Christians have hope that unbelievers do not have regarding the loss of unbelieving loved ones. Our loved ones who are believers and die, go immediately to be with the Lord in Heaven in their spirit form. Their bodies will be raised and glorified at the time of the Rapture and reunited with their spirits… ahead of those who are still alive and being transformed as they are caught up in the air to meet Jesus.
Likewise, according to Scripture, unbelievers who die, experience a taste of their eternal torment in hell (Luke 16:19-31). Their bodies will not be resurrected until the Great White Throne Judgement at the end of the Millennial reign, when they are ultimately judged and cast into the Lake of Fire. This is called the second resurrection and the second death.
Now that we have concluded our puzzle regarding the “dead in Christ,” consider re-reading the key passage below with the added parenthesis.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. (This is the Rapture, or catching away of God’s people.) And the dead in Christ will rise first. (The bodies of the dead will be raised and glorified as they are reunited with their spirits in the air.) Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds (Transformed, changed, and bodies glorified) to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (Parenthesis added).
With God, nothing is impossible!
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INSIDE NEWS: Our intention was to provide the above information via a teaching video. However, the hard drive on our editing computer died in the last couple of weeks and sadly, we lost all programs and data and the ability to edit any videos. After taking the computer to a company who attempted to save some of the information, we learned it was necessary to purchase a new replacement computer. If you are able to assist us in this unexpected expense, please make a donation today. A gift of any size will help. Thank you.
We realize that Satan is attacking us in several areas right now as we prepare to launch a new podcast Channel called Prophecy Codebreaker. This new channel will provide another avenue to attract many who are concerned about our uncertain times. Those who tune in will not only receive prophetic insights of God’s Word about the last days, but will always receive the good news of salvation in Jesus. Please pray for us and for God’s protection over this new outreach… and that many will place their trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Dale and Paula Black
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“Dear Dale and Paula. Thank you so much for all your explanations to help people understand what really will happen. Thank you for all u do. I also enjoyed watching you Dale, on the livestream interview for the upcoming movie ‘Life After Death’ – Linda
“I’ve read VISITING HEAVEN! It is such a great book! Not only for the depiction of Heaven but Dale’s missionary stories are amazing. I could not put the book down. I kept reading and reread parts of the book. You must get this book and share it with others! Thank you, Dale and Paula! I’m excited to go see AFTER DEATH! Thank you for helping us get ready ️- Lorraine
“Thank you Dale & Paula. Thank you so much for your faithfulness to Our Lord. Believers need each other through these times. Agree so much with how you see what’s unfolding. Seeing a lot the same & it’s not the same as decades ago. We did our best with what we knew, but everything is coming into focus and even more and it is just as you’re saying.” – JNC