Our expedition to discover the truth of God’s Word has arrived at the next big junction of our journey. We are now at verse 31 of Matthew 24. I trust you have already read the first eleven chapters of the Commentary, as each new chapter builds upon the foundation of the the previous ones.
“And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matt.24:31).
This will be another major dig site as we search for the genuine gold of God’s Word. We want to be careful not to be tricked into accepting “fool’s gold” so we must be like the Bereans in the book of Acts, searching the scriptures to see if these things are so. It is time to boldly declare that Christ is dealing with the subject commonly referred to as “the rapture”. The Lord has been providing the outline, the skeleton of future events. Other writers of sacred scriptures will help “flesh out” the skeleton, they will augment, supplement and complement the outline established in the Olivet discourse.
As we read verse 31, who is the “He” that “will send forth His angels”? The answer is the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. Who is going to be gathered? The answer is, the “elect”. We already covered the Greek word EKLEKTOS when we studied verses 22 and 24. When it is not being used in reference to angels or Christ, when it is being used in reference to humanity, in all other applications outside the very few usages in the gospels, who is being to referred to when EKLEKTOS is mentioned? The answer is believers, Christians, the bond servants of Christ. The point I’m making is we’re not talking “spiritual Israel” here as some teachers would have you believe. EKLEKTOS is made up of two smaller words: EK, and a form of the word LEGO- which according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary means “to gather, pick out’. The preposition EK is translated “from” but signifies “out from” or “out from the midst of”. Christians were “chosen”, picked out from the midst all of mankind, to be in Christ, before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). And here in verse 31, the Christians are being gathered again, this time to be with Christ. And look! Isn’t it fascinating to see the elect are gathered together by angels? Years ago I was led to believe if I was alive at the rapture I would kind of fly like Superman, up to the clouds to meet the Lord. There are even beloved songs that promote this using lyrics proclaiming someday we will “fly away”. But here we discover there are agents involved. Christ will “send forth” His angels as agents or instruments involved with gathering His elect, perhaps in the comparable and symbolic way the “cloud sitter” sent forth his sickle and reaped the harvest of the earth in Revelation 14:16. Do you see the possible link?
Let’s take a closer look at the word “gather”. In the Greek it is a form of the verb EPISUNAGO (pronounced: ep-ee-sue-knaw’-go). In verb form it occurs about six times, all found in the first three Gospels. As I checked the contexts of the other verses containing EPISUNAGO it appeared to clearly indicate either a degree of intimacy as when Jesus expressed His desire to gather the Jews like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, or a context indicating an eager interest associated with the gathering together. The moment an individual becomes born again they receive over forty benefits or assets. One of those benefits includes the assignment of at least one guardian angel. I speculate it will be these guardian angels that will gather the elect and assemble them together with Christ on the clouds of heaven at His PAROUSIA. As believers “bear up courageously” to the TELOS, the end of the great THLIPSIS–the great persecution/tribulation, these angels are going to be “chomping at the bit”, they’ll hardly be able to wait for the command to snatch up the elect and escort them to our blessed Lord and Savior!
Here is something interesting I discovered; while Matthew uses EPISUNAGO in a verb form to communicate an important concept, the apostle Paul uses it in noun form in a way that compliments verse 31.
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him (2 Thess. 2:1).
Tell me with confidence, which Greek word will we find translated as the English word “coming”? The answer is of course PAROUSIA! Paul plainly links the PAROUSIA of Christ with believers, Christians being gathered together to Him, just as our passage in Matthew 24 does. Later in our journey we will come back to 2 Thessalonians and cover most of chapters 1 and 2, at the proper time. For now, take note that the passage in 2 Thessalonians is supportive of our current passage in Matthew.
Our Lord said He will send forth His angels “with a great trumpet.” This phrase has perplexed some Bible students over the years but there are two other passages of scripture that will shed light on this subject, plus, will help show how the outline, the foundation the Lord establishes in Matthew’s account of the Olivet discourse is verified, complemented and supplemented by subsequent writers of scripture. The apostle Paul wrote the first epistle to the Thessalonians around 50 A.D. with the second epistle following only a few months later. I suspect the problems the Thessalonians had in understanding what God had in store for their loved ones and friends who died before the PAROUSIA of Christ had an impact on Paul’s dissertation on the subject of resurrection when he wrote I Corinthians around 55 A.D. I want us to look at 1 Thessalonians first because in chapter 4 there is a passage that clearly discusses the subject of the PAROUSIA of Christ.
As we consider the context leading up to our passage, remember that Paul is addressing concerns the Thessalonians had while experiencing a period of intense persecution and tribulation. He exhorted them to endure and to keep their perspective on living out the basic principles of the Christian faith. Beginning in verse 13 of chapter 4 he encourages them to not become disheartened, nor fear that their efforts will be in vain if the Lord doesn’t come for them prior to their death. Also, the Thessalonians apparently expressed concern about loved ones who had already preceded them in death.
When it comes to the subject of “the rapture” certain verses in chapter 4 are considered by many as representing nearly half of the “mother load” of key scripture references used in the development of doctrinal positions. I, also, ascribe a high level of importance to chapter 4, but it should be obvious I view the apostle Paul’s teaching on the subject to be complementary and supplementary to the Lord’s teaching as presented in the Olivet discourse. As such, Paul’s teaching should not be given pre-eminence over the Lord’s foundational truth on the subject. My complaint is, key verses within chapter 4 too often fall victim of what I like to call, “the interpreter’s magician trick”. This occurs when verses are isolated from a context broad enough to allow proper discernment of how the selected verses properly fit within the surrounding text. This technique can lead to an inaccurate interpretation, whereupon the interpreter seems at liberty to manipulate the interpretation and make it seem the verses provide support for a particular doctrinal position on the rapture.
Allow me to present a perfect, horrible, but extra-biblical example. Years ago, I was taught one of the key supports for the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position came from a second century source called, “The Didache”, which is also referred to as, “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”. I was shown a short, limited excerpt from the treatise and, sure enough, it certainly seemed as though this document gave support to the notion the twelve apostles theological position was Pre-Trib in their teaching. I did not have access to the whole manuscript at that time so I took the word of my trusted mentor. Many years later I was able to read the larger portion in which that little excerpt was contained. I was shocked when I discovered the much broader context clearly revealed the teaching of the Apostles, as presented in the treatise, was nearly indisputably not Pre-Trib! I actually became physically ill upon the discovery. “How?”, I wondered. “How could the scholars I looked up to, admired and practically idolized for so many years be so mis-leading?” I felt betrayed, it made me angry. I wondered if there was a conspiracy because it seemed so obvious “The Didache” gave zero support for the Pre-Trib rapture position. In our journey, as we have from the start, we will avoid that pitfall by taking careful note of key insights provided by looking at the broader context and by focusing on the links to truth established in the Olivet discourse. We will start our context development in chapter one of 1 Thessalonians.
and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10).
First, I would like to offer an alternate translation for part of this verse: …that is Jesus, our deliverer, out from the midst of, the wrath to come. Later in our journey we will come back to take another look at this verse. What I want to mention here is, though Paul does not seem to make it clear whether he is referring to the day of the Lord’s wrath or the period of Satan’s wrath (Rev. 12:12). Since the Church, Christians, will not experience the day of the Lord’s wrath they will not need to be delivered out from the midst of the day of the Lord’s wrath. Therefore, my conclusion is Paul is referring to the period of Great Persecution/Tribulation in which believers, the Church, Christians, will experience the wrath of Satan as administered by the Antichrist and his minions. In support of this interpretation I offer the point that the Greek word for “wrath” in this verse is a form of the word ORGE (pronounced: or-gay), which is the very word used in Luke’s account of the Olivet discourse, where he recounts the Lord’s admonition to flee Jerusalem at the time of the Abomination of Desolation, whereupon the Lord said “Woe to those who are with child and those who nurse babes in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath [ORGE] to this people,” (Luke 21:23).
Our next contextual point is found in chapter 2. Are you ready for a surprise?
For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming [PAROUSIA] (1 Thess. 2:19).
Verse 19 reads, For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord at…the rapture of the Church??? Hey, wait a minute! Isn’t that what it’s supposed to say? I thought that’s what a lot of authors of books and scholars and preachers taught. But wow, it says …in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His PAROUSIA! Well, chapter 3 will help clear this up I bet.
so that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming [PAROUSIA] of our Lord Jesus with all His saints (1 Thess. 3:13).
Verse 13 reads, so that He may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the…rapture of the Church??? Oops. I thought that’s what it was supposed to say. What’s that pesky word PAROUSIA doing there? It must be trying to steal the spotlight from the word “rapture” again. Well it doesn’t matter that much anyway because the real “rapture” passage–the best one in the whole Bible is in chapter 4. Lets begin by picking up on the Apostle Paul’s encouraging words to the Thessalonian Christians and his instruction regarding the important subject of resurrection. That’s right, resurrection!
I Thess 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.
verse 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him, those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
verse 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming [PAROUSIA] of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.
Lets take a look at what Paul is teaching in this passage. Paul and his companions Silas and Timothy want the Thessalonians to be informed. Remember this principle: Possessing Bible doctrine in your soul gives you confidence for everyday living and handling contingencies that arise. Doctrine in the soul provides the sure foundation upon which hope is built. If your doctrinal foundation is weak you won’t be able to sustain much hope for any length of time. Paul wants to teach them so they will possess confidence and assurance. We see the development of his instruction put forth in verse 14.
“For if”, he says in verse 14. In English the word “if” primarily implies “maybe yes, maybe no”. But Alexander the Great developed the KOINE Greek language to include four “class conditions”. In verse 14 the word “if” is in the first class condition, which means “if, and it is assumed true”. If I were to paraphrase it with a substitute word I would use the word “since”, as in, “since we believe that Jesus died and rose again.” I am not being trivial here. There are times when this is significant. The point is, Paul is not questioning their acceptance of doctrine on this subject of resurrection. What he is saying is, since Jesus died and was resurrected, then, therefore, all believers can rest assured they also will be resurrected should they die.
In verse 15 Paul asserts the authority of the message or doctrine he is communicating as being the direct word of the Lord; not a vision, not a prophetic utterance nor some isolated revelation given only to one man. It is the word of the Lord, delivered with His authority and His assurance of accuracy, made effective by His divine power. This is Paul’s method to ascribe credibility and importance to what he is about to communicate regarding, literally “we the living [ZONTES] the remaining/surviving [HOI PERITEIPOMENOI]”. The NASV translation is not as clear as I would like it to be in this verse. Their translation lacks the important nuance that is brought out in the original Greek; that being, the context of this passage implies a condition or situation which is to some degree life threatening or perilous and living through the period or situation, surviving, is possible. The Greek is a little more abstract and intense than what appears in English. And look at what Paul says next! Those of us who remain alive and survive until…what? The Rapture of the Church? No. He says, until the PAROUSIA of the Lord! What does he say about those who survive until the PAROUSIA of the Lord? Paul says they will not precede those who have already died. The Greek word PHTHASOMEN, translated “precede”, means that the surviving won’t have any advantage over those who have died. We won’t have a “head start” against the dead. So, if a Jehovah’s Witness tells you the kingdom of God is already full from saints that have already died you can use this verse to tell them the race hasn’t even begun yet and they still have a chance…if only they will embrace Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord.
Please hear me out. Jesus was the first one to discuss His Second Coming. He established the outline of His PAROUSIA and the context within which it would occur in the Olivet discourse. Since the apostle Paul also refers to the PAROUSIA, were he intending something categorically different than what our Lord meant when instructing about His PAROUSIA, as many authors and promoters of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church theory insist he does, Paul would of absolute necessity need to provide ample explanation of the difference between the PAROUSIA the Lord established, and his (Paul’s) usage of the same pivotal word. But Paul doesn’t. And the reason is…because they are one and the same. The invention and marketing of the word “rapture” does not shed any truthful light on the biblical subject of the PAROUSIA. Perhaps it has actually done a great disservice to the church.
Verse 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
Paul is discussing the subject of resurrection…within the context of the PAROUSIA of Christ. Remember, PAROUSIA speaks of, or emphasizes, “coming” as an event. There are several aspects or facets associated with the PAROUSIA, one of which is the resurrection of the dead in Christ. Paul also touches upon a few others we see mentioned here in verse 16. The difficulty in getting an accurate handle on the full impact of this verse in English is there’s no easy way to convey the critical nuance of the Greek words used. And its not just one word in this case, it’s three! On top of that these words must be understood within their own context in verse 16, as well as within the contexts of other passages where they are found. We shall start by getting some foundational information from Vine’s Greek dictionary as we check out the words “shout”, “voice” and “trumpet”. Then we’ll see how these words are used in similar contexts in an effort to gain more biblical insight.
Our Thessalonian passage says the Lord Himself will “shout”. In the Greek its a form of the noun KELEUSMA which means “a call, summons, a shout of command”. Authority is alluded to in the usage of this word, more so than volume and that’s where it can be a little confusing from our English usage. Here in verse 16 Paul writes the Lord shouts ” with a voice of an archangel”…not “the voice of the archangel”. There are no definite articles in the original Greek. I take issue with the translators of the NASB and feel their translation is not only inaccurate but potentially disguises important points of the verse.
Looking at the word “voice” we find it is translated from the Greek word PHONE (pronounced: pho-nay), and simply means “a sound”. The vast majority of times the word is used in the New Testament it is in reference to either the voice of God or the voice of Christ. By employing the word “archangel” the apostle Paul provides a description of the shout. When the Lord descends from heaven where He has been seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and He comes to earth’s atmospheric heaven, and He is ERCHOMAI’ing–He is moving from one place to another on the clouds of heaven at the PAROUSIA, He will shout a command that will summon the dead in Christ to rise. When one receives a summons he/she is compelled to appear before the Authority. This command, this summons issued by the Lord will have the characteristics of the voice of an archangel. This begs the question of…what are the characteristics of an archangel’s voice? To be honest, scripture doesn’t expressly say. But according to Jewish tradition an archangel has the power to shout loud enough to be heard around the world! Because this is not based on scripture we have to be cautious. But let’s remember Paul is attempting to describe the shout, the command, the summons of the Lord–in raising the dead at their resurrection. We would expect it to be majestic, authoritative and sublime, in keeping with His glorious and spectacular arrival at the PAROUSIA where “every eye shall see Him”, and in keeping with the passages where Christ identifies Himself as our Shepard, and all His sheep know and hear…His voice!
Here’s a question I have. When Jesus gave the illustration that He is the good Shepard, who constitutes His flock? Is it the Jews who obeyed His voice during His incarnation and will also include redeemed Jews of the Tribulation period? Is the Church included or excluded as a part of His flock? Something to think about if one is of the pre-tribulation rapture theory persuasion, which tries to keep the four gospels from directly applying to the Church Age as per main-line dispensational theological teaching.
The next word for us to consider is the word trump or trumpet. The definition of the Greek word SALPINX is very simple; it refers to the natural instrument. In and of itself the word doesn’t distinguish between a ram’s horn trumpet or one of brass or silver, or a bugle. The definition is simple; trump, trumpet or bugle–an instrument. But it’s usage is often slightly abstract. It is frequently used as a comparative. Try to keep this in mind while we look at a number of verses that will help bring this all together for us, helping us to understand 1 Thessalonians 4:16 better, so we can understand Matthew 24:31 better. The first two references are found in John’s gospel.
John 5:21 “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom he wishes.
Verse 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live.
Tell me in one word what the topic or subject of these two verses is. The answer is resurrection. According to verse 25 the resurrection is directly and intimately linked to whose voice? The answer is, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. It is not the voice of the archangel but it is the voice of the Son of God. Now let’s look at a passage in chapter 11 dealing with the resurrection of Lazarus, which is slightly different than the resurrection of the saints which Paul is discussing, though it has three similarities relevant to our study.
And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43).
Whose voice is referred to in this verse? The answer is, Jesus’s voice. John doesn’t record that Jesus shouted but he does write that it was a “loud” voice. Notice the confident authority in which Jesus summons and commands Lazarus to come forth from the tomb in which he had been placed dead days before! Lastly let’s look at a couple of passages in the book of the Revelation.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet (Rev. 1:10).
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things” (Rev 4:1).
I want to make sure everyone can see that in Revelation 1:10, it is Christ the Lord speaking to John. In subsequent verses John describes the One who has spoken to him and it is a clear description of Christ in His glorified form. But when we compare the two verses above we read there is a loud voice that is described as a trumpet, which proceeds from the One we ascertain is the glorified Christ. Considering all these points, I feel it is very likely that in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Paul is further describing the “shout” of the Lord at His PAROUSIA. The shout will be authoritative; it will summon the dead in Christ; it will be majestically loud–like the voice of an archangel, but it will be divine–as depicted in Revelation by the apostle John. But when it occurs we can rest assured the shout will be understood completely. Everyone involved will know exactly what to do; from the angels to the atoms and molecules of the dead bodies being raised in newness of life, to the souls that will inhabit them, as well as the living, the remaining/surviving that shall be snatched at once together with them. The command will be heard by all, obeyed by all…the dead, the living and the angels. It will be clear as a bell, err, I mean trumpet.
There is another passage of scripture I find fascinating as it pertains closely to the future historical context of our current study in Matthew and 1 Thessalonians. It wondrously ties together the PAROUSIA of the Lord, His voice and His shout. But the perspective, the context is in relation to the wicked and ungodly.
Jeremiah 25:29 “For behold, I am beginning to work calamity in this city which is called by My name, and shall you be completely free from punishment? You will not be free from punishment; for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth,” declares the Lord of hosts.
verse 30 “Therefore you shall prophesy against them all these words, and you shall say to them, ‘The Lord will roar from on high, And utter His voice from His holy habitation; He will roar mightily against His fold. He will shout like those who tread the grapes, Against all the inhabitants of the earth.
verse 31 ‘A clamor has come to the end of the earth, Because the Lord has a controversy with the nations. He is entering into judgment with all flesh; As for the wicked, He has given them to the sword,’ declares the Lordd”
verse 38 “He has left His hiding place like the lion; For their land has become a horror Because of the fierceness of the oppressing sword, And because of His fierce anger.”
Can you see the relationship of these verses in Jeremiah to the context of Matthew 24:27-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, but from the perspective of what it will mean to the wicked and ungodly? Did you get a feel for where on the prophetic time-line these verses from Jeremiah will find their fulfillment? I believe they apply to the period around the PAROUSIA, beginning with the start of the day of the Lord’s wrath and following.
Though we still have more to cover on the subject of the trumpet we will continue with the apostle Paul’s insight on this issue of the so-called rapture of the saints.
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 (1 Thess 4:17).
In the first part of this verse we have the same construction as in verse 15. As the dead in Christ begin to rise up Paul says that “we the living, the remaining/surviving” shall join them. Remember this phrase implies a context of surviving potentially perilous conditions, not just living long enough to experience something. Now let’s look at the words “caught up“. Take a deep breath (maybe two or three deep breaths). These words are the translation of the Greek word HARPAGESOMETHA (sort of pronounced kind of like: harp-a gay-saw-meth-a). What a mouthful! It seems to be a compound word (one word made up of two smaller words). It also seems to be a “hapax legomenon” which means this word as it appears in verse 17 occurs only once in the whole Bible.
I spent hours tinkering around with this one word trying to get more definitive insight into the true meaning. In the limited resources I used it wasn’t given enough attention as far as I’m concerned. From my viewpoint there is an element of mystery surrounding this word. There must be more information that hasn’t been made available to the general layperson. But let’s work with what we do have and as we do that let’s not get carried away into making this word indicate more than it actually does. For example, there is no indication of any who, what, when or where, just by looking at this one Greek word. That’s an important point.
Now if verse 17 of 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 is the Granddaddy of all rapture passages, why don’t we read the word “rapture” anywhere in the verse? According to what I was taught years ago, some Latin scholars translated the Greek New Testament into Latin centuries ago. When they came to HARPAGESOMETHA they translated it using the Latin word RAPTUS which means “a dragging or taking away, a violent rending.” (While I have used quotes in the definition, I don’t remember the source for where I got this.) Later on but still hundreds of years ago, English scholars translated this Latin version and when they came upon the word RAPTUS and the context in which it was used they translated it using the English word RAPTURE. Fast forward a few hundred years to today and we now have a word whose definition I believe has been aggrandized and embellished by preachers, teachers, authors and scholars alike, to such a degree that the word is now used to manipulate the interpretation of major passages of scripture in an effort to promote and market a particular theological bias.
I “reverently wrestled” with Paul’s inspired use of HARPEGESOMATHA in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, its only appearance in all of scripture, and how strong, forceful–almost violent a word it is! I have never read or heard anyone talk about this word. Undoubtedly it is a compound word derived from HARPEGE, a verb whose basic root form means “to catch (up/away), seize, pluck, pull, take (by force); or in this case perhaps the best translation might be, “snatched at once”, along with the word SOMATHA. A quick check from Vine’s Expository Dictionary reveals that the Greek word for “body” or “bodily” is the word SOMA. Would it be too far of a stretch to say we could translate verse 17 “Then we the living, the remaining/surviving shall be snatched bodily at once together with them in the clouds”? But every book I remember reading that mentions anything at all of the Greek word completely ignores SOMATHA and basically just claims the original Greek word in the text is HARPEGE! Interestingly, Paul uses the word HARPEGE (without the inclusion of SOMATHA) in 2 Corinthians 12 as he recounts “visions and revelations of the Lord” in which he was not sure if they took place in the body or out of the body, making his choice of HARPEGE the most logical one.
The verb HARPEGESOMATHA in verse 17 is constructed to indicate the subject (the living, the remaining/surviving), receives the action of the verb from an outside source or force. I have an illustration I like to use as an explanation. A mother makes a batch of terrific cookies with the help of her nine year old daughter. They “sample” some of the cookies then put the rest on a big platter and place them in the middle of the table. These would be the remaining, the surviving cookies. Suddenly, dad and two teenage sons arrive home, walk into the kitchen and spot the cookies. The cookies are helpless; they are just sitting on the platter smelling wonderful. Everyone wants to know if they can have one. The moment mom gives the okay, eagerly, excitedly, hands dive toward the cookies and forcefully yet tenderly, giving due respect…snatch at once, seize, take by force…the cookies, whereupon they enter into their masters mouths, and thus they shall ever be…no more!
But in verse 17 the living, the remaining/surviving aren’t cookies, they are brethren, they are “sons of light” and “sons of day”. Did you notice where to Paul writes these Christians will be “snatched at once”? In the clouds to meet the Lord in the air! And while Paul doesn’t mention it we already discovered who will conduct the “snatching”; it will be the angels, as HARPEGESOMATHA indicates involvement of an outside source or force.
Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:18).
Here in verse 18 Paul encourages the comforting of one another with this teaching. It would be easy to pass by this verse with merely a quick reading. But think about this for a moment. Remember the background, the context leading up to the writing of this letter. The Thessalonians were undergoing persecution and tribulation at that time. In the face of their adversity and uncertainty Paul instructs them via the word of the Lord. He wants them to know the word of the Lord; he wants them to understand, to comprehend the word of the Lord. He wants them to apply the word of the Lord and he wants them to share and pass on the word of the Lord to one another. The word of the Lord is designed to provide us with comfort, stability and confidence. It helps provide discernment and an accurate perspective on the details of life and aids in prioritizing our responsibilities.
Paul is addressing the people’s concern over being separated from their friends and loved ones who have died “in the Lord”. In verse 15 Paul assures them the living have no advantage over the dead at Christ’s PAROUSIA. In verse 16 he informs them that their departed loved ones will actually rise first; they will get their resurrection bodies first. Then, the living, the remaining/surviving will be “snatched at once”. It will be almost instantaneous. HARPAGESOMETHA emphasizes the speed and the force with which this will happen…nothing more, nothing less. When this occurs there will be no more separation. The living will be snatched at once and at that very moment we will be together; and together we will meet our Lord in the clouds of the air and thus we will always be with the Lord…together!
Paul concludes with “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” I want to meet my Savior when I die, but I’m also looking forward to seeing loved ones and friends. I look forward to the time we can all be together. The Thessalonians were concerned about this as well. The major thrust of this whole paragraph is the instruction of Paul as to how and when this will become a reality. When we read this paragraph carefully we can appreciate the clear and simple message of the living and the dead, re-uniting at last–at long last…at the PAROUSIA of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
My prayer for you is that the Holy Spirit would speak to your spirit and heart as to whether the things I am sharing and helping you to discover are true. What a tragedy that certain scholars have come along and aggrandized the “snatching at once”, this word “rapture” into something that far exceeds the context in which it is used. In reality it is only one small aspect of the major doctrine of resurrection. For many this is a very emotional issue and many people have allowed their emotions to overrule the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Once the Thessalonians know and understand and apply the principals behind Paul’s instruction it should be comforting. But it also begs the question of when this will take place. Sure, they know it will happen at the PAROUSIA but Paul anticipates they will want to know when the PAROUSIA will take place. They’ll want to know how long they must HUPOMENO–how long they must “bear up courageously” before being delivered or rescued, and their persecutors are judged, as Paul mentioned earlier in the letter.
Paul expounds upon this issue in the first paragraph of chapter 5. But before we look at his further instruction I need to check to make sure you are confident that verses 15, 16 and 17 of chapter 4 occur within the time period we have repeatedly referred to as Daniel’s 70th week of years. If you don’t see that, or if you aren’t sure, you won’t have the proper context which provides the underlying foundation for chapter 5:1-11.
I Thess. 5:1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.
Verse 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.
Verse 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
We quickly looked at these three verses awhile back. Recall that the word “times” is a form of the word CHRONOS and emphasizes length of time or duration of time. Recall the word “epochs” or “seasons” is from a form of the word KAIROS and refers to a certain measure or proportion of time but emphasizes certain characteristics, conditions or events…associated with that time period. Paul utilizes this terminology to help set the stage. He says in effect “You don’t need further instruction on the issue of how long before or how long until…” “We don’t know the duration; we don’t know the length of time; we don’t have a specific date on the calendar.” But then Paul narrows in on a certain season of time, he focuses in on a certain epoch, a certain measure or proportion of time that is discernible–it is identifiable because of certain characteristics, certain conditions, certain events! Which event does Paul cite in verse 2? The answer is, the day of the Lord. What in the world does the day of the Lord have to do with subjects Paul had just discussed in the previous paragraph of this letter? In chapter 4:13-18 Paul discussed the issues of resurrection and the “rapture”. These two subjects are intimately linked to what event in verse 15? The answer is, “the PAROUSIA”. And according to our study of the word of the Lord in Matthew 24, the PAROUSIA is intimately linked to what other major prophetic event? The answer is, “the day of the Lord”. Link, link, link! The resurrection and “rapture” are linked to the PAROUSIA of the Lord. The PAROUSIA is linked to the day of the Lord. Thus we see a link to the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the “rapture” of the saints to the day of the Lord, as far as timing is concerned!
And if I may, let me slip in a couple of verses from the book of Daniel that re-inforce the principle that God is sovereignly in control of when and how history plays out, utilizing our study words of “times” and “epochs”. The context is Daniel offering up praise to God for revealing to him King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue as well as the interpretation of the dream.
Daniel answered and said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men, and knowledge to men of understanding” (Dan. 2:20-21).
Then Paul provides the Thessalonians with an interesting progression. Prior to the day of the Lord, during the Great Persecution/Tribulation period, the wicked and ungodly will be saying “Peace and safety!” “Life is good…let the good times roll!” It will not be good for Christians trying to survive the acute trials of that period. But something will happen that changes everything. The day of the Lord will come…like a thief, whereupon the Lord will pour out His judgment on the wicked and ungodly. Paul will expound on this more when he writes his second letter to the Thessalonians. Interestingly there is another event that comes like a thief. If you anticipated I was referring to the PAROUSIA of Christ the Lord, you are correct!
I Thess 5:4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness that the day should overtake you like a thief;
Verse 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;
Verse 6 so let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.
Verse 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.
Verse 8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.
Verse 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Verse 10 who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him.
Verse 11 Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
In verses 4-11 Paul goes on to encourage the Thessalonians. While there are many interesting points that could be made about this passage, I would like to point out one critical principle in particular. Verse 9 assures us that those who embrace Jesus Christ as their personal Savior before the day of the Lord will not experience the wrath of God which will befall mankind shortly after the signs in the stars, sun, moon and heavens appear, which announce the day of the Lord. Believers, Christians, will experience the period of Satan’s wrath, which is the Great Persecution/Tribulation period–but not the day of the Lord’s wrath, which follows after.
May I also say, as stimulating as studying biblical prophecy can be, there is a purpose to it that extends beyond the mere understanding of things to come. A primary purpose of divine revelation is to serve as a motivator for learning and applying biblical principles of doctrine relating to living the Christian way of life. These are the things that are relevant moment by moment, generation after generation–regardless of the length of time before the PAROUSIA of Jesus Christ. Even though this principle can be easily picked up on in the writings of the discourse, the epistles of Peter and Paul, and certainly in the Revelation to John, it is also easily set aside in favor of the more intriguing engagement of the “revealing of mysteries”. Let’s be sure those of us taking this journey pick up on Paul’s exhortation that, those who are dead, and those now alive on earth, will someday all live together, with Christ.
Reluctantly, I have decided not to provide the remaining portion of chapter 5, with the exception of one verse. Then, I will make my final points before we continue our study of the trumpet.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete with out blame at the coming [PAROUSIA] of our Lord Jesus Christ (1Thess. 5:23).
Verse 23 is indicative of what scripture reveals in passage after passage. Notice it is the PAROUSIA of the Lord Jesus Christ we are to be aiming for. It”s not the “rapture”, it’s not the HARPAGESOMETHA, it’s the PAROUSIA! This is not inconsequential. Everyone taking this journey should be thoroughly convinced of that by now but it bears emphasizing again. In many books, commentaries, articles and sermons very often you will find a large emphasis on the term “rapture”. You will read or hear statements along the lines of this or that verse refers to or speaks of the rapture. Friends, you need to be acutely aware that 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is the only place you can pin the word rapture to. And even then only in an indirect sense, i.e., as in an old English translation of an old Latin translation of the original Greek writings resulting in the coining of the word “rapture”. Many would argue there are other passages of scripture dealing with the bigger, more developed subject of the “rapture” which has been utilized over the past few decades in particular, so what’s the big deal? For me the big deal is something critical is most often entirely ignored or at rare times trivialized; that being, while only one verse deals directly to the “snatching at once”, HARPAGESOMETHA, the “rapture”, ALL of the passages dealing with this topic have a direct link within the context to the word PAROUSIA. The scriptures treat the PAROUSIA as a major event. The “rapture” is merely one aspect, one facet, one sub-event of the PAROUSIA. Scripturally, you cannot disassociate the rapture from the PAROUSIA. Yet many who discuss this topic try to do just that; they treat the rapture as a “stand alone”. Nearly all those holding to the pre-tribulation rapture theory will claim the next event on the prophetic calendar is the rapture. But the rapture cannot occur until the PAROUSIA! Allow me to repeat that. The rapture cannot occur…until the PAROUSIA. But if you said the next event on the prophetic calendar is the PAROUSIA the scriptures would prove you wrong, as we have already seen. The PAROUSIA can’t occur until the signs in the sun, moon, stars and heavens are manifest announcing the day of the Lord. Those signs won’t be manifest until the great persecution/tribulation has progressed for many months. That period won’t begin until after the Abomination of Desolation occurs, which won’t occur until after the 3 1/2 years of “beginning birth pangs”, which won’t even start until the signing of the seven year covenant or treaty between Israel and the biblical Antichrist!
We need to check the scriptures carefully so that we discover the genuine gold of God’s Word and not be tricked into accepting “fool’s gold”. Don’t fall for the old argument that when Christ comes for the Church at the rapture, He will come in secret on the clouds of heaven, without actually coming to earth. And then the Church will fly up to the clouds, leaving few of the people remaining knowing what happened, and we call this the “rapture”. It is distinctly different than when Christ physically comes to earth and touches the ground, which (is claimed), is the “real” second coming. That is just as ridiculous as trying to claim Jesus had more than one resurrection because there are separate biblical accounts of what happened after the crucifixion in the Gospels. If the PAROUSIA that Paul refers to in both letters to the Thessalonians and in his first letter to the Corinthians is radically different than the PAROUSIA Jesus develops in His discourse, Paul would be obligated to provide a clear explanation to distinguish between the two. Paul did not provide such an explanation, because he is referring to the same PAROUSIA the Lord developed in the Olivet Discourse.
As we “pack up and get ready to leave” 1 Thessalonians to continue our study of the “trumpet”, let’s look at all the links we have connecting this epistle to the Olivet discourse. Matthew records his account of the Olivet discourse as Jesus speaking in the first person as he addresses the disciple’s question regarding His PAROUSIA; Paul states his instruction regarding the PAROUSIA of the Lord is authenticated by the word of the Lord, not a vision or prophetic revelation. Matthew presents Christ descending on the clouds of heaven at His PAROUSIA; Paul describes Christ descending from heaven…at His PAROUSIA. Matthew describes the sending forth of the angels to gather the elect with an authoritative command; Paul describes the authoritative nature of the summoning of the dead in Christ as they rise first, to be joined by living believers who will be snatched at once–up to the clouds to meet the Lord. Christ said every eye would see Him ERCHOMEI’ing (moving) on the clouds of heaven; Paul wrote the Lord will descend from heaven, implying movement, and also that the Lord would be in the clouds. The Lord said He will send forth angels to gather up the elect; Paul said the brethren will be caught up or snatched at once. Though not directly stated, we see in Matthew 24 the elect are saved, delivered, rescued before the day of the Lord; Paul explained the brethren are not destined for wrath but for salvation through Christ. And let’s not forget both Matthew’s account and Paul include the mention of a trumpet! Do you see the links? Do you see how Paul verifies what Christ provided as an outline and foundation regarding His PAROUSIA? Do you see how Paul’s writing complements and supplements and augments what the Lord established? Did we shave any edges on the puzzle pieces to help us force them into places that support a theological bias or did we let them drop into their natural place?
Our journey will now take us to I Corinthians which was written approximately five years after 1 Thessalonians according to the introduction in my NASB. We are coming here to gain more insight on the issue of the “trumpet”, which is the latest subject we have been studying from Matthew 24:31. While our main passage will be chapter 15:51-52, we must first hit a few highlights leading up to those verses so we can establish the proper context.
I Cor. 15:1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,
Verse 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
In these two verses Paul is basically saying he is going to discuss a subject he originally preached to them, which at that time they acted upon and accepted by faith and were supposed to be holding fast to as part of the message of salvation…unless they believed in vain! The last phrase in verse 2 does not mean that if they don’t hold fast to those principles they will have believed in vain; their belief is not the issue here. It is the object of their belief. It is the message that is the issue. It is the gospel message that Paul preached to them that is the real issue. If the message was false or untrue all along, if they believed a lie, then they would have believed in vain! Paul is raising this issue here because his teaching had been challenged and contradicted by some who held there is no resurrection of the dead. Paul lays down his argument beginning with the most important resurrection of all–the Lord Jesus Christ! I won’t provide the whole chapter here but if you have access to a Bible I hope you will take time to read it now, please.
Paul writes the Lord rose on the third day, according to the scriptures. He then lists eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ, including a group of five hundred brethren at one time–many whom would have still been alive to interview at the time this letter was written! Then Paul explains the consequences…if Jesus really wasn’t raised from the dead, which is followed by his dogmatic assertion in verse twenty.
I Cor. 15:20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
verse 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.
verse 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.
Verses 21 and 22 state man’s problem and God’s solution. When Paul states that all shall be made alive he is talking about resurrection. But he informs the reader there is a proper order, a proper sequence. He says Christ was raised first (as was previously stated as historical fact), then, those who are Christ’s will be raised later.
Verse 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming [PAROUSIA],
Paul plainly teaches that those who have died in Christ will be raised or resurrected at the PAROUSIA. Vocabulary is critical. There is a technical difference between saying the dead get raised at the HARPAGESOMATHA, the snatching or catching up, or the rapture of the Church…and saying the dead in Christ get raised at the PAROUSIA. Do you see the significance here? You cannot claim the rapture is just another name for the PAROUSIA. The two certainly are not the same. While the rapture and the PAROUSIA are linked together, Paul plainly teaches both here in I Corinthians, and the two letters to the Thessalonians, the rapture cannot occur until the PAROUSIA of Christ occurs–first!
Recall the old song “She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain”. The second verse says, I believe, “Well we’ll all go out to meet her…” How are we going to meet her before her coming? We can’t! “We’ll kill the old red rooster…” but not until after her coming and after we all go out to meet her–at her coming. “We’ll all have chicken and dumplings…” but not until the rooster is killed and not until we greet her…which is not until after her coming!
The Pre-Tribulation rapture theory claims the “rapture” is not the same as, and is distinct from, the “second coming”. I heartily agree. The big problem is, that theory also claims the rapture is the next event on the prophetic calendar. This position claims it will occur before the signing of the seven year agreement between the biblical Antichrist and Israel, and the 3 1/2 years of beginning birth pangs, and the Abomination of Desolation, and the period of Great Tribulation. It claims it occurs before the “second coming” of Christ, which, according to the theory’s own definition happens at the end of the seven years of tribulation. All of these claims, as we have now discovered, are absolutely wrong!
Well, I suppose I have provided a clear enough context leading up to the verses we need to check out for information on the “trumpet”. Let’s journey on!
I Cor. 15:51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
Verse 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
In verse 51 Paul utilizes two familiar words we need to review. What did we learn awhile back that we are to do when we read the word “behold”? The answer is, we are supposed to stand up and take notice. The word denotes that important information is to follow. Do you remember the Greek word for “mystery”? The answer is, MUSTERION (pronounced: moo-stair-ee-on). Do you remember what a MUSTERION is? It is a truth that you would not know unless God revealed it. It is something that was always a part of God’s plan but you wouldn’t know it unless He revealed that particular truth, therefore it is referred to as a mystery. What is the mystery Paul is sharing with the Corinthians? The answer is, not everyone will experience death! He then goes on to explain “who”, “what” and “when”.
Let’s look at “who” first. In verse 52 Paul repeats for the Corinthians the same basic order he presented to the Thessalonians a few years earlier. The dead will be resurrected first, then the living believers shall be changed.
Verse 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
Verse 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY.
The “what” issue is clearly answered in verses 53 and 54, which describe the resurrection body. The “when” issue is touched upon in verse 52, though Paul doesn’t go into any detail because his major concern was defending the fact of resurrection and explaining the consequences involved. If there is no resurrection, these are the consequences–which he describes in verses 13-19. In verses 20-58 he describes the consequences of the fact there truly is a resurrection. History indicates Paul had spent maybe 18 months or so with the Corinthians and he appears concerned that so many of them were questioning the truth surrounding the doctrine of resurrection. I believe we can rest assured the Corinthians were exposed to the same teaching and most probably the letter the Thessalonians received around five years prior. Even so, Paul provides us with an important piece to our puzzle regarding our subject of the “trumpet”. He informed his readers the resurrection of the saints occurs at the PAROUSIA, when, the “last trumpet” is sounded.
Let’s gather all the clues we have up to this point and see what we have to work with. We know this issue of the trumpet is intimately linked to what major event? The answer is the PAROUSIA of the Lord Jesus Christ. We know this from Matthew, 1 Thessalonians and I Corinthians. Next, Matthew records it is the great trumpet! Everyone in the world is going to hear it. I Corinthians states it is the last trumpet, and 1 Thessalonians states it is the trumpet of God. So there we have it- the great, last trumpet of God–that must occur within the context of the PAROUSIA of Christ.
Now, what in the world is the great, last trumpet of God? Most of the books I’ve read and messages I’ve heard merely brush the biblical information aside without elaboration, basically ignoring the subject. A few authors will tell you the answer is very simple–it’s the seventh trumpet from Revelation, chapter 11. But friends, that simply cannot be, for a number of reasons. This is important enough to warrant a quick look into it.
Were we to do a thorough check we would find all seven trumpets of Revelation chapters 8, 9 and 11 are blown by angels–not God. These seven trumpet judgments occur after the start of the day of the Lord is initiated, as the first trumpet is representative of the first judgment upon the wicked and ungodly. We have been given the promise from God’s Word that Christians, saints, the elect won’t experience the wrath of God or the day of the Lord’s wrath. These seven trumpet judgments extend over a period of time; the fifth judgment alone lasts for five months. All seven trumpets, as well as all seven bowls (sometimes referred to as vials), are judgments associated with the day of the Lord’s wrath, not the PAROUSIA.
Another reason is the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11 is not the “last” trumpet sounded in the overall schedule of prophetic events. There is another trumpet which will be blown well after the seventh trumpet judgment, which is a signal for all surviving Jews left after the day of the Lord’s wrath period to gather back into the land of Israel. This doesn’t occur until after the battle of Armageddon. Armageddon doesn’t occur until thirty days after the completion of Daniel’s 70th week of years! Yet another reason is, none of the seven trumpets of Revelation are within the context of being “great”. The significance of the judgments might be impressive but nothing gives the slightest hint that the sounding of the trumpet by an angel is “great”.
What’s the answer then? Do we know? Can we know? Let’s search the scriptures some more because we do have biblical precedence from which to draw upon. Before we turn to Zechariah to look at the particular passage I have in mind, I need to present some theological bias to help make this piece of our puzzle more meaningful in the overall scheme of things. Most conservative scholars place Zechariah’s ministry as a prophet with the historical time period around 500 B.C. The passage we will look at in chapter 9 is perceived to pertain historically to the wars between the Jewish Maccabees and the Seleucidae associated with the Graeco-Macedonian monarchy. It was during this revolution that Antiochus Epiphanes was eventually defeated. Remember the description and account of Antiochus was eerily similar to the the yet future Antichrist or the Beast. As you read the passage pay close attention to verse 14.
Zechariah 9:13 For I will bend Judah as My bow, I will fill the bow with Ephraim. And I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece: And I will make you like a warrior’s sword.
Verse 14 Then the LORD will appear over them, And His arrow will go forth like lightning: And the LORD GOD will blow the trumpet, And will march in the storm winds of the south.
Verse 15 The LORD of hosts will defend them. And they will devour, and trample on the sling stones; And they will drink, and trample on the sling stones; And they will drink, and be boisterous as with wine; And they will be filled like a sacrificial basin, Drenched like the corners of the altar.
Verse 16 And the LORD their GOD will save them in that day As the flock of His people; For they are as the stones of a crown, Sparkling in His land.
While it seems there are a few similarities in these verses when compared to the paragraph we are studying in Matthew 24:29-31, there is also something else evident here. If we are careful, we can see that familiar theme of trial and testing, persecution/tribulation, followed by the rescuing or delivering or saving of the righteous, which is followed by judgment upon the wicked and ungodly. I agree with the many scholars who see this as one of the many near/far prophecies, with the near occurring during the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, and the far occurring during the yet future time of the Antichrist. Regardless, this is the first mention of the LORD GOD Himself, blowing a trumpet. The next time He blows a trumpet, it will be within the context of the PAROUSIA/Day of the Lord judgment as we have discovered and documented. Just like in the days of the Maccabees, He will deliver His own that have been experiencing persecution and affliction and will then judge the wicked. It may not be the final time God blows the trumpet however. I would not be dogmatic either way but there seems to be a slight possibility of God blowing a great trumpet in Isaiah 27:13, in the context of the Jews returning to their land after Daniel’s 70th week of years is complete.
Well, that is the conclusion of our study of the “trumpet”. We looked at the outline Jesus established in the Olivet discourse regarding His second coming, and along the way we looked at how the New Testament writers confirmed, supplemented, complemented, augmented and authenticated what was established in Matthew’s gospel account. Some might claim in doing so I beat the rapture issue to death. Oh, but we are far from done regarding this exciting topic. Not because of any personal zeal I might possess, but because there are more passages dealing with the timing of when the rapture must take place that need to be explored…at the appropriate spots as our journey progresses.
How about the Old Testament? There isn’t anything in the Old Testament about the Rapture, is there? I mean, everybody knows the Old Testament is for Jews but the rapture is only for the Church right? Let’s look at an Old Testament passage that fits right in with the Olivet discourse, I Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4.
Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits (Isaiah 26:19).
It appears quite obvious to me this verse fits perfectly with Paul’s teaching on resurrection. There is not much more I could add to this, except for asking the question: Is there any contextual clue as to when will this take place?
verse 20 Come, my people, enter into your rooms, And close your doors behind you; Hide for a little while, Until indignation runs its course.
I believe this verse is speaking of God’s people taking refuge and hiding during the Great Persecution/Tribulation, until the activities of the Antichrist or the Beast are “cut off”. The “indignation” Isaiah is referring to could be the wrath of Satan as per Revelation 12:12. Verse 19 deals with the dead; verse 20 deals with the living. Verse 21 is going to provide the context for understanding the application of verses 19 and 20.
Verse 21 For behold, the LORD is about to come out from His place To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; And the earth will reveal her bloodshed, And will no longer cover her slain.
Remember the word “behold” indicates to stand up and take notice! What is the “place” the Lord is going to come out from? The answer is: heaven. Do you remember earlier in our study when we discovered at the PAROUSIA the Lord will be ERCHOMAI’ing, coming, moving, from heaven to the earth on the clouds. And when the Lord returns two things (as well as several others) are going to happen. One will happen to the godly, the other will happen to the ungodly. It’s that major theme we see played out time after time in the Bible. After a period of trial and testing the Lord will rescue and deliver the righteous and then will judge and destroy the wicked. Isn’t that an amazing passage? I bet few of you taking this journey ever interpreted it this way. In my studies I use “The Open Bible” published by The Lockman Foundation. In the margin is a reference to Micah 1:3 and Jude 14. If you can access your Bible it is worth taking a minute to look at those verses as well.
I’m going to take us back to a passage we looked at before, in order to make a new point this time.
“And I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire, and columns of smoke. “The sun will be turned into darkness , And the moon into blood, Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes (Joel 2:30, 31).
Verses 30 and 31 provide the context in which we are to understand verse 32. It should be obvious the context is just prior to the activities of the day of the Lord as the signs given are for the announcement of the day of the Lord. As you read verse 32 I want you to be alert and spot two key words and tell how each one fits in with what we have already covered earlier in our studies; then tell where this verse fits on the overall outline of prophetic events.
Verse 32 “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Will be delivered; For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem There will be those who escape, As the LORD has said, Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.
What do you think the first word I wanted you to recognize would be? The answer is “delivered” as it fits in with Matthew 24:13. How about the second word? The answer is “survivors” as it fits in with 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, in reference to “we the remaining/surviving”. Where does this verse fit in the overall outline of prophetic events? The answer is at the PAROUSIA of the Lord Jesus Christ, just before to the day of the Lord begins.
I will also point out obviously this passage is intended predominately for “saved Israel” or those within the nation of Israel who embrace the true Messiah as their personal Savior. It speaks of a future time, a time we know occurs after the first arrival of Messiah which occurred about two thousand years ago. As I read verse 32 I thought to myself, hmmm…the majority of the time the Old Testament writers instructed the people to call upon “the Lord”, or when recording the Lord as speaking in the first person the Lord says to “call upon Me”. However, there are very few passages instructing the name of the Lord be invoked, with the exception of passages dealing with the end-times or later! My point is, it won’t be the devout Jews who strongly adhere to the religious principles of Judaism that will be delivered prior to the day of the Lord, but those who call on the name of the Lord. It’s those who have an affinity to and with the name of the Lord!
Philippians 2:9-11 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Verse 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may have cause to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.
Do you see my point? It will be those Israelites that call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that will be delivered just prior to the start of the day of the Lord; and while there will be some, there will only be some, not that many really. I have one last passage for us to check out.
“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:1, 2).
As usual it is important to understand the context within which these verses appear. Daniel chapter 11 provides a fairly extensive amount of information pertaining to the one referred to as the Beast or the biblical Antichrist and much of his activity. As you read the two verses what period is the “time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation”? The answer is of course the Great Persecution/Tribulation. What is the prerequisite for being rescued? The answer is, you must be found written in “the book”. What book do you think is in view here? The answer is, the same book referred to as the Lamb’s book of life. Does this portion of verse 1 seem to be referring to dead or living saints? The answer is, living saints. As you read verse 2 can you identify what long, “r” word is being described here? The answer is “resurrection”. Do you see the marvelous tapestry that is woven throughout the scriptures? Do you see how all the writers of scripture confirm and support each other while adding their own divine perspective on end-time events and eschatology? Did you notice how the three passages we just looked at were consistent in the sequence of events, and that this sequence of events, established here in the Old Testament…is maintained throughout the New Testament?
It may be hard to believe but I am ready to pick up camp and move on! We will now journey back to Matthew 24. Before we start our study of the new paragraph beginning with verse 32, I want to share one more thought on the last part of verse 31.
Jesus promised His angels would gather His elect “from the four winds“, and also included “from one end of the sky to the other.” We should take comfort in the fact our Lord has command and authority over the whole powerful angelic host. During “Operation Search and Rescue” these mighty spiritual entities will scour the globe and identify every genuine Christ follower. Not a single one will be missed. All of them will be saved, rescued, delivered. Not one will be…left behind. May this be a sobering reminder that we should strive to be always ready and that we should seek the Lord’s guidance in the power of the Spirit in leading others to become disciples of Christ so that they too will be on the angels list of those who are to be “snatched at once”.
I hope you are enjoying the journey and are in for the long haul. We are not quite half way through at this point. Are you up to tackling a new paragraph? On to the next chapter of this book. Onward we will go, to Matthew 24:32-36.