(Read Part 1)
Resurrection No Mystery
The Old Testament saints believed in a resurrection. Therefore, when Paul wrote about it to New Testament believers, he was not revealing a mystery. Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us that Abraham was directed to offer his son as a sacrifice. He obeyed,
. . . concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.
And Joseph believed in the resurrection of the body. Just before his death, he said to his brethren,
God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here. (Gen. 50:25)
He made this provision because he believed in a future resurrection.
What then was the mystery of which Paul spoke in 1 Corinthians? It was not judgment, not resurrection. The apostle was referring to the transformation of both living and dead saints that will occur at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ for His church. All who are in Him will be “caught up . . . to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17)! The mystery is expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:51 in these words: “We shall not all sleep.” Paul was saying that we shall not all die. An entire generation of believers in Christ will not experience physical death, but will be translated at the rapture. The world thinks that death is inevitable for everyone. “No!” Paul says, “I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” What excitement must have spread through the Corinthian church when they heard the new revelation!
This interpretation is confirmed by what Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4. These may be familiar verses to you, so read them as if you have never read them before. What a glorious truth this must have been to the believers, both at Corinth and in Thessalonica!
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:13-17, KJV)
Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. (Rev. 1:19)
In Revelation 1, John wrote what he had seen, the risen Christ walking among the lampstands. In chapters 2 and 3, he presented the things which are a spiritual history of the church age. Beginning with chapter 4, the Apostle John wrote of “the things which will take place after this”—that is, after the history of the church on Earth. From Revelation 4 to the end of the book, the church is never again seen on earth. Chapter 4 of Revelation begins with a door opened in heaven and a trumpet that says, “Come up here (Rev. 4:1)”. This corresponds to the rapture of the church. All the dead in Christ will be raised; all living saints will be caught up with them. And all will be changed.
This transformation will take place instantaneously. Paul said it would occur:
. . . in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. (1 Cor. 15:52)
I suppose this was the shortest measurement of time Paul could think of. The Greek word for twinkling was used for any rapid movement. You and I live in an age of tremendous speed. We can sit in our homes and view events that are taking place on the other side of the globe. Transmitted around the world or bounced off a satellite, we see them as they occur. But never in the history of the world will there be a more startling instantaneous happening than we read about in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4. A great company of believers, the church of Jesus Christ, will suddenly be transformed—they will be missing!
The Trumpet Will Sound
This will take place “at the last trumpet” (1 Cor. 15:52). To be the last necessitates that there must be a first. Many have pictured Gabriel as the trumpet blower. Perhaps so. Regardless of the trumpeter’s identity, I am certain that this will be “the trumpet of God” (1 Thess. 4:16).
This is not connected with the seven trumpet judgments of the book of Revelation. The church will be missing from the Earth during that time of tribulation. But just as two trumpets were sounded in Israel, so it may be that the first trumpet will awaken the sleeping saints, and the last trumpet will signal the closing of the church age. The first will call forth those who have died in Christ: the other will call the living saints for that glorious change.
(To be continued)
Dr. Dave Breese (1926-2002) was an internationally known speaker, teacher and author. He founded the ministry of Christian Destiny in 1963, and through it proclaimed the gospel on weekly radio and television programs and in numerous books and booklets. In 1987, he also became the president and Bible teacher on The King Is Coming telecast, a role that he filled until his death in 2002. Other organizations that Dr. Breese served during his distinguished ministry career included Youth For Christ, Awana, Back to the Bible, National Religious Broadcasters and National Association of Evangelicals. A frequent conference speaker and a master at explaining the relevance of Bible prophecy, he was also known for his wisdom and wit. It is a great honor to include him as part of the inaugural class of Revived Classics authors for Dispensational Publishing House.
This article originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of Destiny Newsletter.
Copyright © 2010 Christian Destiny, Inc. All rights reserved.
The article is reprinted here by permission of Christian Destiny.
For more information regarding Christian Destiny, go to www.ChristianDestiny.org.
Other material copyright © 2017 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated,
are taken from the New King James Version®.
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Scripture quotations marked KJV are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.