- By Ronda Lane -
"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).
Israel knew of the resurrection of the dead long before the birth of Christ. Even Job (possibly the oldest book of the Bible) knew of the resurrection. (Job 19:25-27). Yet the resurrection occurring at the rapture was new material; it was a mystery not given until the age of grace, to Paul to give to the church, the body of Christ (1 Cor.15:51).
We see that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose (resurrected) the third day (1 Cor.15:1-4). His resurrection sets the precedent and the reason why we (grace/church-age believers) will also be resurrected. Christ defeated both sin and death. He paid for our sins with His precious blood, as only He was and is sinless, holy, and undefiled (Heb. 7:26). But we often stop at this and take for granted that Jesus defeated sin so that we can be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18, Rom. 5:10), without thinking about how He truly defeated death (for us believers) also! (1 Cor.15:20-26, 54-57.)
I'd like to write something a little different this year for Resurrection Sunday. Rather than focus just on the death, burial, and ascension of Christ Jesus (as we most often do this time of year), I'd like to focus on the resurrection and what this wonderful hope means to the believer.
By no means do I wish to in any way disparage or take away from the importance of the gospel - Jesus' death, burial, and ascension in 1 Cor.15:1-4. In fact, were it not for Christ Jesus willingly submitting to God's will and bearing the sins of the world upon His sinless body, shedding His precious blood, we would not have the opportunity to come to the Father without Christ! (John 14:6; Rom. 3:25, 6:23; 1 John 2:2, 4:10; John 3:15-18, et al).
But I wonder as I sit here (Saturday evening, the night before Resurrection Sunday) how often we believers actually study or ponder the resurrection promise given to us, which would not have been possible were it not for Jesus' own resurrection? I desire to write an article full of hope and comfort to fellow believers. This hope, comfort and wonderful peace in our hearts comes only from what He has done for us.
We find these truths in God's word, His promises that we believers are so assured by. One such promise is that of the resurrection and eternal life for believers! But keep in mind that this article is truly for believers only, as a far different future awaits the unbelievers.
For the unsaved world, and for nominal "Christians" (or even Christians in name only), there seems to be only two times of the year that it is 'socially acceptable' to speak of scripture, the gospel, and the wonderful hope we believers have in Christ Jesus. Resurrection Sunday is one of those times. There are hundreds of articles poured out each year during this season. And most all of them have to do with the gospel-that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose the third day (as found in Cor. 15:1-4).
Truly there is no better hope than that. Yet today, I'd like to focus not just on the cross and the burial, but also on the resurrection: first on just how Christ Jesus rose and ascended to heaven to the right hand of the Father (Matt. 26:64; Heb. 10:12; 1 Pet. 3:22; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33-35; Psalm 110:1; Matt. 22:44; Mark 12:36; Acts 7:55-56; Heb.1:13; Acts 5:31; Eph.1:20; Heb.8:1; Col.3:1; Heb.1:3, and the following three verses):
"So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God" (Mark 16:19).
"Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:34).
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2).
All of the above is a study in itself, which deserves much more time and attention than I'm going to allot in this article. Thankfully, so many excellent writers cover this topic thoroughly during this time each year (and often throughout the year as well). And this wonderful gospel by which we are saved, if we have believed (as Paul set forth the words given of the Holy Spirit to write in 1 Cor. 15:1-4), is the foundation of our faith.
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Cor.15:1-4).
Because of His death, burial, and resurrection we have the opportunity to accept so great a salvation. And along with that salvation comes the promise of heaven, an eternity with Jesus, and the promise of eternal, glorified, and incorruptible bodies as well.
What will our resurrected bodies be like?
1 John 3:2 tells us this: "...we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."
We know that, not only will we see Jesus as He is (which we look forward to with eager anticipation, being with our Savior), but we will also be like Him! We also see the answer to this question in the same verse: When will we see Him and be like Him? "when he shall appear."
We see this again in Colossians 3:4, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory."
The next question we may be asking is when will He appear? Let's look to scripture for the answer.
1 Corinthians chapter 15 is one of my favorite chapters in all of scripture (even though all of God's word is excellent). But in this chapter we first find the gospel (v.1-4), how Jesus' appeared to many in His resurrected body (v.5-8). Paul reiterates how he was called out to be an apostle (v.9-11). Then Paul wastes no time getting into both the resurrection of Christ and how we believers will also be given resurrected bodies at the rapture. Paul explains why we must receive resurrected bodies and when we will receive them throughout the remainder of the chapter (v.12-57).
That is quite a lot of verses of scripture devoted to the resurrection and rapture to discuss! It deserves an entire study and article about them alone. Please take time to study this chapter thoroughly (as many of you already have, yet why not take time to re-study again today?). There is only so much room here to discuss so vast a subject, but let's discover some key facts.
The rapture event itself is detailed in verses 49-53. Let's look at those first, as they sum up vital information.
"And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
"For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Cor. 15:49-53).
Here we see why we need glorified bodies: these corruptible flesh and blood, sinful bodies cannot enter heaven (v.50). So we must receive glorified, incorruptible bodies fit for heaven, and fit to be in the presence of the Lord. Next we see that those of us who are still alive (in human, fleshly bodies) at the time of the rapture will immediately be changed (v.51-52). Our fleshly, corruptible bodies will be changed instantaneously into glorified, incorruptible bodies. The event will transpire so quickly that it will happen "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye."
Next we see that so also will all those whose bodies have died (in Christ, over the last 2,000 years) will also have their bodies resurrected as well during the rapture (v.52). This same event is described in 1 Thes. 4 as well.
"But 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.
"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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.
"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
"Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thes. 4:13-18).
Many of them in Thessalonica had been wondering how this could be, since the souls of believers who had died (in Christ) went to be with the Lord immediately upon physical death of these fleshly, corruptible bodies. We know that to be absent from these bodies is to be present with the Lord right away! (1 Cor. 5:8, Phil. 1:21-24, et al). Paul cleared up the mystery for them. Yes, the souls of those believers in Christ did indeed go to be with Him upon their physical, bodily deaths. But at the rapture ALL OF US (believers) will receive resurrected, glorified, incorruptible bodies.
In fact, Paul took pains to make sure they understood that their loved ones, fellow believers who had physically died and had already gone on to be with the Lord, would also receive their glorified bodies at the same event, the rapture. We see in 1 Thes. 4:14 that God will "bring with him" all that have died in Christ prior to the rapture - in fact, that those even receive their glorified bodies first (v.16) - "the dead in Christ shall rise first."
Then the progression of the event is that those of us who are "alive and remain" at the time of the rapture would then be "caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." Not only so, but from that point forward for the rest of eternity, "so shall we ever be with the Lord!" (v.17.)
Finally, we are exhorted to "comfort one another with these words." And what a comfort all of this is! The rapture, the resurrection, the receiving of our promised glorified, incorruptible, heavenly bodies, and to be with Jesus for eternity afterwards. I'd say that is a whole LOT of comfort!
And all of this will take place so quickly - "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." All of us who have believed on Christ for salvation over the last 2,000 years will be caught up together in the air at the same time. What a glorious event this will be! Those of our loved ones who are already in heaven since passing on will receive their glorified bodies at the same time we do. What a reunion that will be!
Yes, I'm excited to think about being reunited with my sister who passed on of cancer in 2003, my grandparents (so blessed that all four were believers!), and so many relatives and dear friends who've gone on before. But even more so am I eagerly anticipating being with our Savior-seeing Him as He is!
Oh, the joy that awaits us is far too exceptionally marvelous to even begin to imagine! In fact, we are told we truly cannot imagine these things in our current corruptible bodies and minds. The very best of our imagination of these things is like "looking through a glass darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12).
"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor. 2:9).
Yet we are given just enough information to know how truly wonderful the things that await us will be. Jesus likened the place He is preparing for us to "mansions."
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3).
Yet again we are promised in that scripture, not just the eternal rewards, but to be with Him (Jesus) as well! "that where I am, there ye may be also." We are promised other eternal rewards as well, one of which are crowns. Here is but one crown, and all who are also eagerly awaiting His appearing will receive this crown:
"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2 Tim.4:8).
There are more crowns in scripture as well. There are also other eternal rewards given at the judgment seat of Christ (the BEMA). This judgment is NOT about salvation. We are eternally secure in Christ if we believed on Jesus for salvation already. This judgment is for believers only - rewards (and loss of rewards) for how we served Him in our Christian life (2 Cor.5:10, 1 Cor.3:8-15).
Those things which we did for His glory are as "gold, silver, and precious stones." These are eternal rewards. Those things we did for our own selfish reasons and/or to bring glory to ourselves rather than to the Lord are as "wood, hay, and stubble." These types of things we will receive no rewards for.
We also know that we will be "clothed upon with our house which is from heaven" (2 Cor.5:2). This house is not made with hands, but is a "building of God" and "eternal in the heavens" (2 Cor.5:1). While this may be a difficult concept to grasp while we are yet here in these corruptible bodies of flesh, we do know that our eternal rewards and heavenly abode will be far superior to anything we can imagine here on earth.
In 1 Corinthians 15 we read of the differences in bodies. We now have an earthly body, but will receive a heavenly body at the rapture and resurrection (v.48-49). In the same chapter, we are told these human bodies are sown in dishonor, yet will be raised in glory (v.43). Sown in corruption, but raised in incorruption (v.42). Since we have not yet seen what our glorified bodies will be like, it's difficult to imagine.
God's word uses imagery such as a seed of bare grain (v.35-38). Our new, glorified bodies will be as different looking from what they are now as a grain of seed is to the full, mature plant that springs forth out of the ground. Even better, our glorified bodies will be fit for eternity in heaven with the Lord.
We are exhorted to be looking for this blessed hope of the rapture and resurrection always - to live our lives with this comforting hope foremost in our minds - looking forward to our heavenly future, eternity afterwards with the Lord!
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet.1:3-4).
What an excellent chapter is 1 Peter 1 also. We read numerous, comforting scripture within. It deserves an entire study and article alone as well. And yet I have space here to bring out but a few salient points.
In verses 18-19 we see that we are not bought with corruptible things, but rather we are bought with the precious blood of Christ. As we continue on, we see in verse 21 that as God raised Christ from the dead, so too are we given that same promise for our faith and hope!
"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Pet.1:23).
Peter continues on (verse 24) to speak of mankind's human, corruptible flesh being as the flowers and grass which wither and fall away. Yet God's word is eternal (v.25)! He isn't promising fleshly, corruptible bodies of sin to live forever, but instead to be given incorruptible bodies-bodies like Christ's own body, which will never wither away as the grass, or as the fleshly, corruptible bodies do! We have so much to look forward to with the promised resurrected bodies alone! And much more is promised besides this.
Let's take a few moments (or more) to thank the Lord for His wonderful gifts and promises. First for salvation in Christ! For none of this awaits an unbeliever (quite the opposite). And also let's thank Him for the promises to come: the resurrected, incorruptible, glorified bodies we will receive; the promise of eternal rewards as well; and even more marvelous that we will be with Jesus forever after!
We are to be watching and waiting, looking for the things above; not consumed with cares of this world and cares of the fleshly, corruptible bodies we now reside in; always keeping in mind these are temporal, and that we have much better awaiting us!
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1).
"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
Let's be mindful that when Christ arose He defeated death also-not just His own, but ours also!
"For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Phil. 3:20-21).
How near is the rapture and (at the same time) the resurrection of our bodies? The rapture is imminent. It could happen any day, any time, any hour! It could have happened anytime within the last 2,000 years had it been God's plan to do so. It could happen today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or anytime. We absolutely cannot set a date or time. But we can know from scripture that the rapture HAS TO happen PRIOR to two specific events:
#1. The rapture and resurrection has to happen prior to the antichrist confirming a seven-year false peace covenant (Daniel 9:27), which will kick off the clock for the 70th week of Daniel. 70 weeks (of years) were determined upon Daniel's people (Dan. 9:24-27). Who were Daniels' people? Israel. 69 of those 70 years have been fulfilled. The last week of years (7 years) is yet to come, but is on the near horizon.
Yes, the rapture HAS TO happen prior to then. Why? Because God's wrath will be poured out upon an evil, God-hating and Christ-rejecting world. Yet God has promised that we believers are delivered from this foretold wrath to come by Christ Jesus! (1 Thes.1:10, Rom. 5:9, 1 Thes.5:9.) We are not appointed to His wrath! But the unsaved world is that has rejected Him and is right now openly mocking Him, denying Him, and living in sinful rebellion as in the days of Noah and as in the days of Lot (Luke 17) right now!
Even the secular society notices that the world seems to have "gone crazy" in the last couple of years. These events and characteristics were foretold to be prevalent in society in the perilous last days (2 Tim. 3:1-7, 13; Rom. 1:18-32, et al). God will not be mocked (Gal. 6:7), yet that is exactly what the unsaved world is doing. Not only are they rejecting their only means of salvation in Christ, but are also mocking Him and believers (Jude 1:18, 2 Pet.3:3-4), attempting to censor and silence believers as well.
Lawlessness is another hallmark characteristic of the last days. The world is begging for God's wrath, and they are soon to get it (Revelation chapters 6-18).
Yet the church-the grace/church-age believers-are not appointed to this soon-coming wrath. So the rapture must indeed occur prior to the tribulation commencing.
#2. There is a second event that the rapture MUST occur prior to: the opening of Israel's eyes. Right now Israel is "blind in part" during this current age of grace (Rom. 11:25). There is an expiration time for this blindness. When? "Until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in." When that event occurs, the rapture will transpire; afterwards, then Israel's eyes will start to be opened by God! (Rom. 11:26.)
We are currently witnessing 2 (maybe 3) specific Biblical prophesies aligning precisely as foretold. Let's start with the one prophecy that may be aligning before we go into the two prophecies that are definitely aligning.
Jer. 49:35-37 speaks on an area in Iran (formerly called Persia), which is now known as the Bushehr Province (formerly known as Elam). In this same area, two (or more) of Iran's nuclear reactors currently reside. The prophetic event is foretold to be of such force that all the winds will scatter the people of that area into all other nations of the world.
Right now (this week in the news) we are seeing that Israel has been sending planes to surveil the nuclear ambitions of Iran, and PM Netanyahu has been making it known publicly that Iran absolutely will not be allowed to bring their nuclear ambitions to fruition. It may be that Israel will strike this area in Iran, or it could be a chain reaction if other hidden nuclear facilities are struck in Iran. But at some point in the near future, Iran will be struck in the modern-day Bushehr Province.
Next are the two Biblical prophesies that are definitely aligned and ready for fulfillment.
The first of the two is Isaiah 17 where Damascus (in Syria) will become a ruinous heap overnight, to be uninhabitable. While there has been a 7+ year war raging in Syria already, and while much of Damascus already lies in rubble, this event is foretold to occur in one fell swoop overnight (Isaiah 17:1, 17:14). Why?
"And behold at eveningtide trouble; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us."
Because they have robbed and attempted to "spoil" Israel of what rightfully belongs to her.
This event in Damascus will likely be the catalyst for the 2nd prophetic event that is already aligned precisely as well. It may well be the excuse Russia uses to kick off the Ezekiel 38-39 war.
In this prophesy Russia, Iran, Turkey, Libya, and N. Sudan will come against Israel, invading on the "northern parts" of Israel in the "mountains" and on the "open field" (Ez. 39:2-5). God will destroy them handily. It will be so devastating to those who come against Israel in this attempted invasion that only 1/6 of the troops that invade Israel will remain alive (Ez. 39:2, specific wording in KJV).
There is much more that could be said about each of these three specific prophecies on the near horizon; but for this article it's relevant to point out that, by the time the Ezekiel 38-39 war ends, Israel will be having her eyes opened! (Ez. 39:22-29.)
Why is that fact so important? For the reasons we already noted. Israel's eyes are blinded in part right now in this current age of grace/church age. Yet once the fullness of the Gentiles comes in and the rapture occurs, then Israel's eyes will be opened again! So these two huge clues give us a look into the timing of the rapture. We don't know the day or hour (and cannot ever attempt to set a date or time), yet we know the rapture MUST occur before these two events transpire:
#1. The rapture of the church occurs prior to the tribulation, prior to God's wrath being meted out on the God-hating and Christ-rejecting world. We also know that, during the second half of the tribulation, Israel must flee to a place prepared for her By God. It will be the "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7) to bring a 1/3 remnant of Israel through the fire and tribulation of those days (Zech. 13:8-9, Matt. 24:15-22, et al). That's Jacob's trouble (Israel), not the church. We are gone before God's wrath ever commences on this world.
~~~ AND ~~~
#2. The rapture of the church happens when the "fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom. 11:25), which happens prior to Israel's eyes being opened.
So we are close. The rapture is imminent and the rapture is nigh. This should give believers such comfort because, as the rapture is nigh, so too is the resurrection of these vile, corruptible bodies of flesh. We've so much to look forward to. Because Christ defeated death for us on the cross, His burial and resurrection!
"So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Cor.15:54-55.)
How near are we? We can't set a date, but we can know the season. The season is now; the rapture is SOON! So too our resurrection which occurs at the same time. When we see all these things aligned, we need to take notice and take comfort.
"Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thes. 4:18).