|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Walvoord; ©1996|
|Bible Prophecy Questions Answered by Leading Christian Scholars.|
Dr. John Walvoord: Notice the details that he gives us about the Rapture. First of all, the Lord is going to descend bodily from heaven to the earth. This is an important event. He actually comes to the air. He never touches the earth. When this happens, then Christians who "are alive and remain shall be caught up [raptured, snatched] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." And so our prospect is that when the Lord comes, if we’re living we will be changed instantly; if we’re dead as Christians we’ll be raised from the dead and we’ll meet the Lord in the air and then proceed to heaven.
And so we have this wonderful truth, that Christ is coming, and that when He does, we’re going to be with Christ forever. And we’re going from earth to heaven. Now, it’s very important to notice the results of the Rapture. The Rapture is not a coming of Christ to stay in the earth as a second coming is, but rather a movement from earth to heaven. Just exactly the opposite of what you see about the second coming of Christ, which in my belief, is going to occur sometime later when He comes back to set up His Millennial Kingdom. "And thus we are always going to be with the Lord." That’s the wonderful prospect that’s before us.
2. Who is taken out of the world, and by whom, indicate two separate events.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Look at the words in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 17 carefully. The Apostle Paul tells us, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God." It’s interesting that the Bible says the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout. The Greek word for shout, kalousma, is a word of command. It’s a military term. It’s as if all the troops are at ease and the general issues the command to fall in. Luther translated this word "stand up." It’s a call to the Church to stand up. The Church has been in repose. The bodies of the saints have been lying in the graves and there’s coming a time when Jesus comes, descends out of heaven, and He shouts or commands for those bodies to stand up, and they fall into rank. It’s a gathering up. This is like John 5:25 where Jesus said, "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."
And just as a military commander issues the order and it’s echoed by one of his subordinates, the Bible says the archangel will add his voice, echoing, as it were, the Lord’s command. Then the trumpet of God sounds. In the Roman Empire the people knew that if the government leaders wanted to make a public announcement, a proclamation, or to meet somebody important like the emperor, they would sound a trumpet to gather the people together. More importantly, in Exodus 19 it was a trumpet that called the people out of the camp to meet God. It was a trumpet of assembly. The trumpet of 1 Thessalonians 4 cannot be referring to one of the trumpet judgments in the Book of Revelation, because the Book of Revelation hadn’t been written yet. But the Thessalonians were familiar with the trumpet call of assembly in the Roman Empire and the trumpet of assembly in Exodus 19.
Then Paul says that after the Lord issues this command to assemble, the trumpet blows, the archangel echoes what the Lord says, "The dead in Christ shall rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together [or raptured] with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord." Christ Himself is clearly the One who takes believers out of the world in joy and blessing at the Rapture; whereas at the Second Coming, Jesus sends the angels to take wicked people out of the world in judgment. In Matthew 13:41 in the parable of the tares, Jesus taught, "The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They [the angels] will throw them [the wicked] into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." So, at the Second Coming, Jesus sends His angels to remove people from the face of the earth to judgment.