Ponder Christ’s upper room meeting with His disciples. He told them that He was going away to prepare a place for them and that He would return and take them to be with Him (Jn. 14:1–3). The promise to go away was fulfilled when Christ ascended into heaven and was seated at the right hand of the Father (Acts 1:9; Eph. 1:20). “I will return” speaks of His second coming. He told his disciples that He was returning to take them to be with Him. This merits confidence in the snatching away of believers – the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:17). Clear!
This entire truth is reinforced by Christ’s timely parable in Luke 19. Just days from the cross and knowing that the people thought the kingdom was coming right away, Christ spoke of a nobleman (Himself) who was going away to receive for himself a kingdom and return (Lk. 19:11-12). A clear match!
Christ said to the church at Philadelphia, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Rev. 3:10). The Thessalonian church was to “wait for God’s Son from heaven – even Jesus, who will deliver us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10).Believers will be delivered from the wrath to come, not kept safe through it. There is a world of difference! We are to wait not worry. This wrath to come is not speaking of hell but the judgments to be poured out on the earth in the last day (Rev. 6-19). Revelation speaks of the great day of wrath that is to come and asks who will be able to stand (Rev. 6:17). The response to this judgment will be unbelievers calling on the mountains and the rocks to fall on them and to hide them from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:16). This is not ordinary conflicts, but the greatest anguish in world history. The only way that believers can be kept from this earthly trial or removed from the wrath to come is to not be here.
Here is more reinforced hope and comfort. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor. 15:50). We are not properly equipped to live in God’s kingdom in our physical bodies. We must be changed! “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51). Paul called this change “a mystery” – a truth once hidden in God but now revealed. The old prophets did not understand this. The mystery is that we may not all experience death. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump, for the trumpet will sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed – speaking again of the rapture (1 Cor. 15:52). A moment is the smallest divisible time that the language can use, and how long does it take for the eye to twinkle? This describes just how fast our “snatching away” will be (1 Thess. 4:17). We will vanish!
The last trumpet means just what it says. Dead believers will hear it and be raised and instantly be united living spirit with glorified body. Living believers will hear it and be instantly changed! Wow! “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:53). The reason is stated again so we cannot miss it. Our corruptible bodies must be changed into bodies that will never go back to dust – like Christ’s glorious body (Phil. 3:21). Our mortal bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die. “When this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Cor. 15:54). “When” is a time word! At the moment that this fallen corrupt body puts on a body that will never return to dust and this temporary body takes on a body designed by the Creator to last forever, then a new saying will be established – Sayings in the early church were not uncommon. This saying is Death is consumed in victory – no more death. The reoccurring thought that death must come to us is the stinger of fear plunged in our hearts by Satan. Death to the believer is not to be feared. It is graduation day. “O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55). The stinger of fear is pulled out. The fear of the grave is removed.
“The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law” (1 Cor. 15:56). Sin’s sting (its wage), is death (Rom. 6:23), and the strength of sin (its power) is the law (Rom. 7:7). “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:57). No matter what happens to us in this fallen world – the good (faith, family, friends, and freedom) or the bad (wars, pandemics, tyranny, or death itself) – we will win in the end! How then should we respond? “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Be safe and stay tuned.