This article is about the resurrection of the ungodly, the resurrection of the body, and the rapture

Source: The Outlook, 1984. 4 pages.

The Resurrection and the Rapture

Victory! That's what the return of the Lord Jesus Christ will herald! Victory over sin and Satan. Victory over death. With Christ's return comes the resurrection — victory over death realized.

In Scripture we read,

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.1 Corinthians 15:51, 52


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 that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17

The term "resurrection" is a Biblical one. However, it is used in Scripture in different ways. This is clearly seen in John 5:19-29. In verses 21 and 25 the resurrection is synonymous with regeneration (cf. Ephesians 5:14; Colossians 3:1). But this passage also refers to the resurrection in the Last Day (vv. 28, 29). All will come forth at that appointed hour.

Calvin wrote:

But why does he mention those only who are shut up in graves, as if others would not be partakers of the resurrection, whether they have been drowned, or devoured by wild beasts, or reduced to ashes? The answer is, that as the dead are commonly buried, by the figure of speech called synecdoche, he employs a part to denote all who are already dead.Commentary, John 5:28

Even a surface reading of John 5 will not allow more than one resurrection. John 5:29 simply states that both the elect and the reprobate will come forth — all of them — and they will have different experiences. Acts 24:14 and 15 states that there will be one resurrection (the word is singular) and all will participate.

Further, this resurrection is clearly related to the Last Day. Jesus said, "And this is the will of him that sent me, that of all that which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day" (John 6:39; cf. 6:40,44,54; 1 Corinthians 15:23; Philippians 3:20, 21; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

The resurrection in the Last Day will have two different visible results.

Although the resurrection of the unrighteous is not heavily emphasized in Scripture some very important things are said. For them, the resurrection will be an ushering into the ut­terly complete horror of the results of sin. Not only do the souls experience this; so also do the bodies — and that everlastingly. Death in its widest extent and heaviness is im­posed on them.

Now, why can this be said?

Daniel 12:2 reads: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." The word "many" ought not to disturb us. It actually emphasizes that the salvation which comes at that day "will not be limited to those who were alive but will extend also to those who had lost their lives" (E.J. Young, Daniel, p. 256). Some of these who have died shall arise to reproach or contempt, due to their sin.

In Isaiah 66:24 we are told that the unrighteous who arise "shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." There will be nothing beautiful, nor can there be, about these bodies. E.J. Young, writing on the text in his commentary put it this way: "The result is that it is an abhorrence to all flesh that beholds it." The sight of these bodies will remind us of the terrible punish­ment for sin.

On the other hand, although the Bible does not give us the exact nature of the believer's resurrection body, either, there are some hints which give us enough of a picture so that we see it as showing the full experience of sanctifica­tion and glory (Daniel 12:3; 1 Corinthians 15:49; Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2).

Perhaps the closest to an explanation of the nature, of the resurrection body is found in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44. This explanation is given as a contrast to the body that is buried.

The first characteristic is that whereas the body is "sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption." Our bodies constantly have in them the seeds of disease and death. Someone wrote, "When we begin to live we also begin to die." The corruption our bodies know continues even in the grave. But the resurrection body will be without corruption. It will be free from decay and disease.

1 Corinthians 15 continues: "it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory." We live and die lacking glory. When death comes the body must be put away in the grave or anyone who would look upon it would gasp in horror. Even the lowering of the body into a grave is a great dishonor. But our resurrection bodies will be like the glorious body of God's Son (Philippians 3:21). This, we are unable to describe; it is so wonderful!

"It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power." Death comes and all strength is gone. There is nothing more powerless than a corpse. Even strength for breathing is gone (Psalm 90:10). With the resurrection, however, comes a power which is (ability) able to do everything which will be required in eternity. There will be no weak knees, no dim eyes or halting breath. Anything which would hinder us from serving the Lord will be done.

"It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body." Careful reading of these words will not allow us to see a comparison between a physical body and spirit. Rather, the comparison is between two kinds of physical bodies. The body that dies is "natural," "carnal," "animal." Our present bodies, the ones placed in the ground at death, are governed by the seat of our sensations, affections, desires, etc. These are all polluted by sin. This natural body is placed in the ground. The body that is raised will be guided by a different set of impulses. A complete transformation will have taken place and the spiritual impulses will have taken over. However, it will not be some kind of spirit-being which will come forth. Jesus' body was physical (John 20:17; Luke 24:38-43). Ours will be like His.

Concerning this resurrection body, there are several points which must be emphasized.

  1. The resurrection body will be of the whole person. The body will come forth from its resting place and will be reunited with the soul.
  2. This resur­rection will not be a new creation. Just as Christ did not have a new body, but a completely changed, yet essentially the same one in which He dwelt here, so will we.
  3. In the resur­rection we will remain man — rational, moral creatures.
  4. In the resurrection we will maintain individuality, distinct from others.
  5. However, the resurrection body will not be just a restoration of our present body. Though it will be recognizable, a transformation will have taken place.

Obviously, the resurrection is something about which we know very little. God has revealed only so much! As a result, many unanswerable questions arise, such as "At what age will the resurrected be?" Such questions are not only unanswerable, they are time-wasters.

Also, we must avoid painting a very silly picture of the resurrection which has all the parts of our bodies returning from hither and yon. Not only would that mean that limbs lost in the wars would have to travel through the air, but also returning would be all the teeth that have ever been extracted by our friendly dentists or that have fallen out due to growth, the hair which has been cut off, the finger-nails which have been clipped, and even the tonsils and appen­dices which have been removed due to disease. To think of all these flying, as it were, through the air is a silly picture to say the least! Yet, no doubt, you have heard the resurrec­tion so described!

Rather, when we consider the resurrection we must read carefully 1 Corinthians 15:35-38:

But someone will say, How are the dead raised? and with what manner of body do they come? Thou foolish one, that which thou thyself sowest is not quickened except it die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not the body that shall be, but a bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other kind; but God giveth it a body even as it pleased him, and to each seed a body of its own.

Here Paul is using an illustration of a seed to convey the truth of the resurrection. In the spring many of us plant seeds. For a moment imagine that you have never seen a lush, green cornfield or a bed full of beautiful marigolds. If someone gave you a corn seed or a marigold seed and told you to plant it in the ground and then, you are told, a plant would come forth, what would you expect to see? Actually, that seed must dissolve so that the germ in it must come forth. It must disappear and never again be seen in its original state. But what comes forth is a richer and different form of life which nevertheless still has a relationship with that from which it sprouts. There is a continuity between seed and plant.

So it is in the resurrection. The seed, or the kernel of the body has been preserved. To that seed a glorified body is given in the resurrection.

Indeed, eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for His children!

Only the barest essentials have been given, and we can testify, "I believe ... the resurrection of the body."

Closely connected with the resurrection is the subject of the rapture.

We must be very careful when we talk about the rapture. Dispensationalists spend so much time on the rapture that, while they would deny this, for them it appears as if the rapture is more important than the appearance of Christ. John F. Walvoord, in his The Rapture Question, p. 8, wrote that " is a most important aspect of the hope of the church." It becomes for many of them an escape. For that they are longing. Hal Lindsey has thrown fuel on the flame of interest in the rapture in a recent book with that title.

Now, while we shun the "rapture theology," we cannot shun the idea. Though the word "rapture" is not used in Scripture, the idea is there. While a case can be made that it is implied in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53, it is rather clearly stated in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

The word itself comes from the Latin word meaning "to seize" or "to snatch." The idea of "caught up" in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is the idea of "rapture." In fact, the Latin word is used at that point in the Latin New Testament.

What, actually, does the Bible teach about what is called "the rapture"?

First, according to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17, it is clearly related to the general resurrection of the Last Day. The fact that unbelievers are not mentioned in this passage does not mean that they will arise at another time, as some say. Actually, Paul, by inspiration, is giving comfort to confused believers who were afraid that if a believer died he would be something of a second-class citizen when Christ appeared and would not share the joy of the living believers. He was saying that both dead and living will know the joy of Christ's return. The dead bodies will come forth from their resting places. Their souls "will God bring with him" (v.14). Jesus will be coming for those saints whose bodies and souls have been reunited, and for the saints yet living. Together, these shall be caught up to meet the Lord.

The idea of meeting the Lord should be explained. "To meet" in the Greek was a technical term which would describe a public welcome given to a visiting dignitary. The citizens would go out to meet him and then accompany him back to the city. They would not remain out of town with him. Nor does the church go to meet the Lord when He comes and remain with Him in the air for a period of three and one half, or seven years, as some teach. The idea of the rapture in the text is the grand welcome the church gives to the Lord. That relationship of joy will last forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is the second point which must be made.

Third, the rapture will not be silent (1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:52), nor will it be secret (2 Peter 3:10). It is the Day of the Lord that comes as a thief — when least expected, not the rapture.

Fourth, it will be directly related to the transformation promised to believers. The living saints will be transfigured. What, then, of the unbeliever? He will witness the joy of the believers and he will be forced to acknowledge the Lord, but not in faith (Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:9-11). He will see the reigning Savior and Judge, and seek a hiding place (Revelation 1:7; 6:15-17).

That last moment of history when the trumpet sounds and the shout "Behold, a white horse" (Revelation 19:11) echoes through all creation will be a glorious moment for the believer. Christ will have come unto salvation (Hebrew 9:28).

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