1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 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. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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 will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”
In our last lesson, we introduced the subject of the Rapture by examining many different passages that speak of this next great event on God’s prophetic time table. I will remind you that when we talk about the Rapture, we are speaking of the prophecy that addresses the return of the Lord Jesus Christ for His Church. In our lesson today, we will take into consideration the most significant passage in the Bible pertaining to the Rapture, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
Understanding this passage is the foundation that supports a proper perspective on the other prophetic passages that speak of the Rapture of the Church. Such passages (such as 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12) speak of the Rapture but in the sense of its implications to the Church and the world. The truths revealed in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 will help you interpret those other passages in their proper prophetic order.
We will divide this lesson into three parts. First we will define the meaning of the word “rapture” to give you a clear understanding of what is being spoken about. Second, we will consider the reasons the prophecy was given to the church at Thessalonica. And finally, we will discover the chronology of the Rapture. So, let’s see what we can discover in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 about the Rapture of the Church.
The meaning of the word “rapture”
When we use the word “rapture” in our context, we are considering the _____________________ ramifications of the word.
The word rapture comes from the words translated “_______________ ______,” found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
The Greek word “harpazo,” translated as “caught up” in our English Bibles, can also be translated as “seize,” “catch up,” “snatch away,” or “carry off by force.” The following passages are examples for us to consider.
Matt. 11:12 “take it by force.”
Matt. 12:29 “carry off.”
Matt 13:19 “snatch away.”
John 6:15 “take Him by force.”
John 10:12, 28-29 “snatches them.”
Acts 8:39 “snatched Philip away.”
Acts 23:10 “take him away by force.”
2 Corinthians 12:2, 4 “caught up.”
1 Thess. 4:17 “caught up.”
Jude 23 “snatch them out.”
Rev. 12:5 “caught up.”
Our English word “rapture” comes from a _______________ translation of the Greek word “rapture” which means to seize, or actually remove or carry one away from one spot to another. In reference to 1 Thess. 4:17, it refers to the removal of the Church to heaven. And the way the verse is written in Greek, it conveys the absolute certainty of a factual event that will happen sometime in the future ( it could be a few minutes or hours or days, or months, or years), that only God will perform.
The reasons for the prophecy
What precipitated Paul’s addressing the subject of the Rapture for the Church at Thessalonica?
What does the general overview of the Rapture look like (v.15)?
What was the prophecy of a Rapture intended to do for the believers at Thessalonica?
The chronology of the Prophecy
Jesus, Himself, will _______________ for His Church (v.16a).
Jesus will __________________ from heaven to receive HIs Church (v.16b).
Jesus, Himself, will ____________________ the Church’s rapture by a shout (v.16c).
The ____________________ will come from the voice of an archangel (v.16d).
Jesus will come for His Church with the sound of a __________________ of God (v.16e.).
Jesus will ___________________ His Church from the dead (v.16f).
Jesus will ___________________ His Church from the earth (v.17a).
Jesus will bring His Church together in the ________________ (v.17b).
Jesus will _____________________ Himself to the raptured Church (v.17c).
Jesus’ Church will ___________________ be with Him (v.17d).
The Rapture of the Church
As we continue our study of the Rapture, we’ll take into consideration the spiritual mood in the church that will occur just prior to the Lord Jesus returning. There are two main indicators pointing to the approaching rapture of the Church: an intensification of doctrinal apostasy and the movement toward ecumenicalism. We will consider both of these in some detail.
Doctrinal apostasy in the Church will intensify.
There will be a _________________ to endure doctrine that is sound (2 Tim. 4:3).
There will be a _________________ of the doctrine of the Trinity (1 John 2:22-23).
There will be a denial of the doctrine of the _________________ of Jesus Christ (1 John 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7). There will be a denial of Jesus as the Messiah, Savior, and God.
There will be a denial of the doctrine of the _______________ of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:4).
There will be a lack of ____________________ lifestyle among those saying they are right with God (2 Tim. 3:1-8). Paul indicates twenty different traits that will characterize the apostasy of the Church:
Love of self
Love of money
Disobedience to parents
Lack of self-control
Haters of those good
Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God
A pretense of worship without any true godly power in one’s life
An opposition to one who teaches the truth
The more one drifts from sound doctrine (2 Tim 4:3), the more these traits will be displayed in one’s life. And as the individual slips into these traits, the more the Church will demonstrate these characteristics. All of this will occur with great intensity just prior to the rapture of the Church.
Ecumenical unifying of churches regardless of doctrinal differences.
The Bible prophesies that during the Great Tribulation there will be a religious ecumenical movement to unite the world. This is described in Revelation 17, and is called the “mystery Babylon the great the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth” (v.15). In chapter 17, this Babylon represents a false religious system that will take place worldwide in those days.
In his book, Basic Theology, Charles Ryrie noted that the groundwork for such a system will apparently have to be laid before the Tribulation begins, that is, during the closing years of the church age.
In the last 30 to 40 years, there has been a push to bring all churches under one unifying banner. Some of the ways I have seen this take place in my years of ministry are:
Local ministerial associations to do the work of God (with every denomination represented). I personally know of a pastor who resigned his pastorate due to the pressure he received from a small group of head-strong congregants who insisted he join the local ministerial association. He simply could not join any ministerial group that was made of ministers who subscribed to a false gospel.
Local community worship services (holiday services).
Organizational efforts to unify men of every faith (Promise Keepers and their acceptance of Catholicism).
Cults wanting to be viewed as Christians (Mormons).
Movies portraying all religions as equal (Oh God, starring George Burns and John Denver).
The elevation of a social gospel over a biblical gospel.
How does one who is in favor of ecumenicalism square their ideas with the apostle Paul’s admonishment to the church at Corinth (2 Cor. 6:14-18)? Just because someone or some group of people call themselves Christian does not mean, in fact, that they are. Not everyone can be right. According to Ephesians 4:5, there is only one true faith. Anything outside of that is to be considered doctrines of demons and grounds for eternal damnation (Gal. 1:6-9).
In the closing days of the Church Age, there will be a greater push by men to bring all people into one religious community, thereby setting up the removal of the true Church so the false church can unify the hearts of mankind.