Tag: THE RESURRECTION

RAPTURE 23: RESURRECTION AND PAUL’S ORDER OF EVENTS

Last time I wrote that Revelation provides for only two resurrections: one at the return of Jesus Christ, and the other a thousand years later after the Millennial reign of Christ. Pre-tribulation rapture theory has to assert that the first resurrection is in stages separated by years of time, because the first resurrection in Revelation includes those who will be martyred during the tribulation. See part 22. Today I will continue the theme of resurrection in relation to the rapture. The fact that Paul listed the order of resurrection events is usually overlooked, but not here!

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I apologize once more that this is a long post. It’s also a little bit involved, and not an “easy” read. It is, therefore, helpful only for those who strongly want to know what the rapture is about Biblically-the intention of my book*. 

Before Paul told the Corinthians that they would be changed in the twinkling of an eye, he discussed the resurrection and the necessity of faith in it. Here Paul laid out an order of resurrection events in plain terms for us. He introduced his order of events by saying that as in Adam all die (speaking of the result of the Fall of man) so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22). However, he wrote, there is an order of resurrection:

…each in his own turn” (verse 23).

Is this perhaps evidence of a “staged” first resurrection? Paul is enlightening us on the subject of “turns” here, including who will be raised first and second. He’s going to tell us in what order these fundamental happenings take place.

FIRST: “Christ the firstfruits” (verse 23a). Paul had already clarified that Christ is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (v 20). He was the first to be raised permanently.

SECOND: “Then, when he comes, those who belong to him” (23b).

THIRD: “Then the end will come” (24a).

A shallow understanding of this order of events may suggest that the pre-tribulation position is the right one, so that the “end” is considered to be the tribulation and its culmination, which will happen after the rapture when Christ will come for believers. Is this correct?

To help us draw some conclusions about Paul’s “turns”, we need to ask some questions. In which of these three steps is the rapture? Which “coming” is Paul speaking of in the second step: a pre or mid-tribulation rapture, or his visible return in power and glory? Is this resurrection perhaps in “stages”? What does Paul mean by “those who belong to him”? Are those who belong to him just the people who are ready for the rapture while nominal believers have to be “left behind”? If so, where is the turn of those left behind? Which “end” is Paul speaking of? If it’s the end of the tribulation, then the second step could be speaking of an early or pre-tribulation rapture.

THE “COMING” OF CHRIST IS SINGULAR IN PAUL’S NARRATIVE

Why is it that here, where Paul is speaking of the order of events-particularly the resurrection, is there only one coming of Jesus for those who belong to him? This chapter-1 Corinthians 15- is the same chapter in which we read about resurrection and rapture, and that “We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye” (verse 51-52). Paul is sharing the “mystery” of resurrection and rapture with us in the second half of the chapter-and we all see him as being privy to the facts. And yet when he gives us the order of resurrection in the first part of the chapter, there’s only one coming of Jesus mentioned. He said nothing about a split or a staged return, or a split or a staged resurrection. All he tells us is that Christ will come for those who belong to him. Surely, those who “hold to the testimony of Jesus” during the tribulation also belong to him? Surely, they will also be raised to live and to reign with him? The remarkable answer to this question is “Yes”- the saints martyred during the tribulation will be raised and will reign with Christ during the Millennium:

“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:4-6 NKJV). 

Significantly, neither is there any split or distinction later in the chapter when Paul discusses the “mystery”. There he’s telling us that for the dead and the living believer there will be instantaneous change from mortality to immortality. But gives no hint that this transformation is for “some” while the rest get left behind for a later, subsequent event in his order of things.

It’s no use saying that the coming of Jesus in Paul’s second event is a pre-tribulation rapture, because Paul says that he is coming for “those who belong to him”. Surely, at Jesus’ return in power and glory when he commands the angels to gather his elect, the elect “belong to him” (Matthew 24:31). And surely, those resurrected martyrs of Revelation chapter twenty also “belong to him” (Revelation 20:4). There cannot be several single comings of Jesus.

Pre-tribulation teachers speak of an in-the-clouds secret coming for the Church and later a visible coming in power and glory. Though Paul in his own words is laying out his meaning of “each in his own turn”– the “turns” of resurrection-he only speaks of one coming of Jesus Christ. There is no step between Paul’s second and third step. There are no “stages”. Paul said nothing like “then it will be the turn of true believers” or “then will come the turn of those who were left behind the first time”, or “then the turn of those martyred for Christ”. If the “coming” of Jesus is in two stages or more, why didn’t Paul say so here, in this chapter about resurrection and rapture?

We’re told in Revelation chapter 20 that all those who belong to Jesus will be raised before the millennial reign of Christ. There will not be any held back from resurrection until after the millennium:

This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them…they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:5-6).

Remember that those who are martyred during the tribulation are considered by Christ himself to be blessed. He isn’t going to count such people out of his first resurrection. And you will recall that in his Olivet Discourse, Jesus commands his angels at the end of the tribulation to gather his elect from one end of heaven to the other. Jesus isn’t going to leave any of his people out of his Millennial kingdom.

So the most obvious reading of Christ’s coming in part 2 of Paul’s list of events which is in singular terms, is that there’s an all-inclusive coming for all believers in Christ, with no mention of a staged resurrection. But even if this resurrection Paul described in 1 Corinthians is a single reference to a staged or split resurrection, there is still no guarantee that the first stage of the first resurrection will be before the tribulation.

Further, it’s difficult to conclude from Daniel’s book, with any honest conviction, that the resurrection will take place before the work of Antichrist begins. The last five verses of Daniel’s 11th chapter describe Antichrist’s movements in the middle east, saying that “He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain” (11:45). We know that the “beautiful holy mountain” must be the temple mount in Jerusalem, and we know that both Jesus and Paul spoke of Antichrist’s revealing upon his temple mount appearance. It is after Daniel’s prophecy tells us this that it then speaks of the resurrection.

We know that Antichrist is not even revealed until the mid-point of the tribulation, when he enters the temple (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12), and we know that Antichrist is given just forty-two months of power on the earth (Revelation 13:5) before Christ returns and throws him into the lake of fire (19:20). Remember that a pre-tribulation rapture necessitates the resurrection of the dead occurring before any sign of Antichrist appearing or fulfilling any prophecy. This would be contrary to Daniel’s view of things, and Paul’s.

WHICH “END” IS PAUL SPEAKING OF?

We’re looking at Paul’s discussion of resurrection, and the order of events around the resurrection of those who belong to Jesus. Now we want to look at Paul’s third point of order. After Jesus comes and the dead are raised, Paul says, “the end will come” (1 Corinthians 15:24). Which “end” is Paul speaking of here? This is a vital question. Is he speaking of the tribulation, transpiring after our second step in which Christ comes for “those who belong to him”? This would signify a pre-tribulation rapture. Or is he thinking of a different “end”? Paul gives us the clear answer himself, in the following verses:

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (15:24-26).

Revelation makes clear for us that Jesus Christ will reign on the earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6b). The last rebellion against God will be put down at the end of that thousand years (verses 9-10) and then death itself-the “last enemy” will be destroyed. This is the “second death (20:14). Then Christ will hand over the kingdom to the Father, as Paul said (Revelation 21:1-4 with 1 Corinthians 15:24). Paul is saying, then, that “the end” is when Jesus has put all his enemies down at the close of the thousand year reign: the final rebellion of Satan, and death itself. Then he will hand over the kingdom to the Father.

The “end” which Paul was saying would come after Christ returns for those who belong to him is not the tribulation, but the end of the millennium -a thousand years after Christ’s glorious appearing for every eye to see; the end of Satan, and the end of death.

In summary Paul’s sequence of resurrection events in his letter to the Corinthians only includes one “coming” of Jesus Christ and one resurrection of believers.

Scriptures about the resurrection do not favor a pre-tribulation rapture. The best we can say about them in this regard is that any proposed first “stage” of the first resurrection would have to be after the revealing of Antichrist.

*ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST A PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher. Available on Amazon in paperback and digital form.

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RAPTURE 22: THE FIRST RESURRECTION

I was a pre-tribulation believer and proponent for twenty-eight years. Therefore I am, I  believe, well qualified to critique this mistaken position. Open your minds to reality, dear Christian brothers and sisters…

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Today’s excerpt from my book* is taken from chapter 14. The chapter is rather long, so today’s post contains a part and the rest will appear next week.

Paul, writing primarily about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, wrote that the dead will be raised “imperishable”, and that “we will all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51). He gave us more detail of these events in his letter to the Thessalonians. Here he made clear that the resurrection will occur first, and then, “after that” those who are still alive will be taken up to meet the resurrected and the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Therefore, if the rapture were to occur before the tribulation, the resurrection would have to also occur before the tribulation. Conversely, of course, if the resurrection were to be at some time later, say, during or after the tribulation, then the rapture would have to be even later than that. So is it possible to pinpoint the time of the resurrection in relation to the tribulation using scripture?

Pre-tribulation believers have to assert that the resurrection will be in stages, because when we read of a resurrection of martyred believers at the end of the tribulation, occurring after the victorious return of Jesus Christ to the earth, it is called in Revelation, “The first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5). There are only two resurrections in total, according to Revelation, and John informs us that if you miss the first resurrection, there’s a long wait until the second:

The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended” (verse 5).

If it were to be the first “first” resurrection (intentional repeat) in which martyrs of Revelation are raised in chapter 20, then the rapture has to be at the end of the tribulation. So pre-tribulation theory has no choice but to say that the resurrection is in stages, that the resurrection of the martyrs is a second or even a third stage, and that the first stage, taking place with the rapture, occurred at least seven years earlier than chapter 20. Are pre-tribulation believers correct in invoking stages for the first resurrection? Or instead, could this resurrection of martyred believers in Revelation chapter 20, labeled by John “the first resurrection” actually be the same event as the resurrection Paul talked about to Corinthians and Thessalonians, which he associated with the rapture?

There’s no doubt that only the martyred are mentioned at this point in Revelation, giving the distinct impression that they’re the last ones left to be raised, and other believers must have been raised at some time before this. However, the fact that they’re the only ones mentioned here doesn’t exclude the possibility that their resurrection is actually just a featured detail; a part of the simultaneous resurrection of all believers. In that case the focus here, as it has been for several chapters of Revelation, is the persecution of all ages under the Harlot, and more specifically during the tribulation, where those living through it- the “saints who hold to the testimony to Jesus”-have been harassed and persecuted by the Beast. In this case their resurrection is most relevant to the account of tribulation events, and so the one in focus at this point.

WHERE ARE THE OTHER STAGES OF RESURRECTION?

Even though Paul had revealed the “mystery” of Christ’s return; the resurrection and the rapture, many years before the writing of Revelation, there’s no other reference in Revelation to the first resurrection before this one in chapter 20. Why not? It’s not at the beginning, or in any of the letters to the churches, or in the account of John being taken up to heaven. There’s no mention in heaven of resurrection before any seals are opened, or during or after them, until this talk of the “first” resurrection in chapter 20, after Christ’s return with his angels in chapter 19.

Verse 4 of chapter twenty, in which we see the martyrs raised, and before the martyrs are mentioned, speaks of “thrones, on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge”. We normally associate judgment with the physical return of Jesus to the earth. Indeed, how can anyone be judged without him? We, even as Christians, are going to receive a form of judgment, without condemnation (2 Corinthians 5:10 with Romans 8:1). So if the “judgment seat of Christ” is going to occur at the time of the resurrection of the martyrs, either the resurrection of the martyrs is a part of the general resurrection occurring simultaneously, or if the rapture occurred years earlier, the raptured have had to wait seven years to by judged. The other unlikely alternative is that Christ keeps getting out his judgment seat for each proposed phase of the resurrection. Why are seats of judgment being brought into view now for the first time in chapter 20? There’s no mention anywhere of any judgment occurring seven years before or at any previous point in Revelation.

Note, again, what Paul didn’t say to the Thessalonians or the Corinthians in the very scriptures we use as evidence of the resurrection and the rapture. He didn’t say, “some” of the dead will be raised imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:52). He didn’t say that those who are “ready” for the rapture will be taken and the others left. He didn’t say “some” of the dead will rise first and the rest later (1 Thessalonians 4:16). He said nothing in these passages about a two or three-staged resurrection, or a two-staged rapture, or for that matter a two or three-staged return of Jesus.

DANIEL’S RESURRECTION

Daniel’s prophetic book gives us an early, Old Testament glimpse of the resurrection. Chapter 11 first foretells some narrative of military and political struggles in the Middle-East in a chronological order, and then, by the end of chapter 11, we’re brought all the way up to the actual time and location of last-days tribulation events. There we learn a little about the movement of Antichrist and his forces in the Middle East.

Chapter 12 continues the order of events Daniel was shown, speaking of a time of “great distress” for the nation of Israel. This description closely resembles Jesus’ remarks in his Olivet Discourse, in which he speaks of the appearance of Antichrist, and the time of “great distress”, unequaled at no time past or future (Matthew 24:15-22). It also evokes Paul’s description of the time of Antichrist’s revealing which will release all sorts of evil on the world (2 Thessalonians 2).

It’s at the end of the succession of events Daniel is told about, and not at the beginning, that the angel talking to him speaks of the resurrection. First comes the warning of “a time of great distress, such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then”. Then the resurrection is described:

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

*ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon.

WHAT EASTER MEANS TO ME

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Here’s a little departure from my series “Jesus: Man or God-Man?” It’ s on hold, since my view count took a sudden drop to two a day and stayed there, so that I have to  wonder if I’ve been sabotaged or silenced somehow. Support didn’t answer my query. I may not write any more.

I listened to Janet Parshall’s radio show today, (“In the Market with Janet Parshall”). For two hours she interviewed authors of recent books affirming the validity of the resurrection story. One is “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Dr. Michael Licona (and someone else), and “The Jesus Family Tomb Examined”, by Rene Lopez*

The arguments are most convincing and encouraging, but I don’t really need them: I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ without question, and I’m aware of numerous arguments in support and defense of it. However, one thing I did gain from the discussions was the sense that opposition to the resurrection has this fatal flaw, among many: the counter-claims and theories are so numerous and varied that they actually disprove each other. If these theories were anything but theories and hypotheses they would have a single and a conclusive line of reasoning backed up with evidence, but they do not.

Since the Romans and the unbelieving Jews were so anxious to snuff out the claim that Jesus had risen from the dead you would think that the first thing they would have done would be to parade his body around the streets, but they didn’t-they couldn’t.

So what does Easter mean to me?

I remember that when I was a boy I had a sub-conscious  fear of my own mortality.  More and worse than that, I feared the mortality of my parents, who had me late in life and who were already in their fifties when I was just a child. I loved them dearly, and didn’t want them to leave me, or to suffer by losing each other.

By the time I was in my teens I was very disillusioned with human nature and the world of men. Something inside me knew instinctively that life was not how it should be: that people were in some way lost and separated from the way they should be. So, to cut out a large chunk of the story, when I came to know Jesus, and about Jesus, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me, because I learned that his death cancelled out my sin against my Creator, and that his resurrection secured my own eternal life.

Not only do I have the assurance of eternal life, but I can have the same assurance for my loved ones. Life, the Universe and everything makes sense, knowing that there is a loving Creator, and not just some silly pond-scum-to-hopeless-man story, and that He has a master plan.

In that vein I want to quote a hymn which is probably my very favorite, although I have many favorites.

AND CAN IT BE

  • And can it be that I should gain
    An interest in the Savior’s blood?
    Died He for me, who caused His pain?
    For me, who Him to death pursued?
    Amazing love! how can it be
    That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
    Amazing love! how can it be
    That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!
  • ’Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!
    Who can explore His strange design?
    In vain the firstborn seraph tries
    To sound the depths of love Divine!
    ’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
    Let angel minds inquire no more.
    ’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
    Let angel minds inquire no more.
  • He left His Father’s throne above,
    So free, so infinite His grace;
    Emptied Himself of all but love,
    And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
    ’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
    For, O my God, it found out me.
    ’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
    For, O my God, it found out me.
  • Long my imprisoned spirit lay
    Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
    Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
    I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
    My chains fell off, my heart was free,
    I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
    My chains fell off, my heart was free,
    I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
  • No condemnation now I dread;
    Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
    Alive in Him, my living Head,
    And clothed in righteousness Divine,
    Bold I approach the eternal throne,
    And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
    Bold I approach the eternal throne,
    And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Words Charles Wesley, music Thomas Campbell

Source: http://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/296#ixzz2zJPVpFob

* http://www.moodyradio.org/brd_programarchive.aspx?id=100728