THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST
” and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1st Thessalonians 4:16b).
Our Lord’s Resurrection Power
The initiating power of this translation was, of course, the resurrection power of our Lord. We all know that He appeared in the same body He had before His death. The disciples recognized Him, as did many other people.
The apostle Paul writes about the resurrected Lord and confirms in 1st Corinthians 15:5-8, “… that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”
The resurrection of the Lord is a major event in God’s history of salvation. When Jesus victoriously arose on the third day, we read, “…behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door…” (Matthew 28:2). That was an earth-shaking event! The power of that resurrection caused the awakening and subsequent translation of the bodies of some of the saints.
Three Important Points
To better understand our message “And the Dead in Christ Shall Rise First,” we should consider three important points:
- What does the word “resurrection” mean?
- The resurrection as a fulfillment of prophecy.
- The first and second resurrection.
1) What Does “Resurrection” Mean?
In simple terms, the word “resurrection” means to go from death to life. Obviously, this must be preceded by the change from life to death. Resurrection reverses that process.
Resurrection from the dead is essential to Christian doctrine and concerns itself primarily with the resurrection of our Lord. Later, we will see different types of resurrections; however, none of them compare to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ because His is the firstfruit of the resurrection to eternal life.
When the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the Rapture in 1st Corinthians 15:12-14, he specifically emphasized the absolute necessity of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen; And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” Paul’s point is very clear. Without Christ’s resurrection, the preaching of the Gospel is invalid; furthermore, our faith is in vain.
Christ is coming again! The components which make up the resurrection can be identified in this order: life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return.
Paul continues, “…we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins ” (Verses 15-17).
Without the resurrection of Christ, there would be no salvation.
Equally, we would have no hope of resurrection if Christ had not been raised from the dead. Subsequently, with no resurrection of the dead in Christ, we which are alive could not be caught up in the Rapture, and “… they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished”‘ (verse 18).
Faith in the Rapture is a requirement for the Rapture. First Thessalonians 4:14 says, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” Notice the word “if.” This is a clear revelation that those who do not believe in the physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus are in reality not believers. As a result, they will not be raptured.
Christ: The Firstfruits
Paul dismisses the theory prevalent in the Corinthian church regarding the non-resurrection and confirms the absolute reality of the resurrection of Christ, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1st Corinthians 15:20-23).
In this passage, Paul identifies Christ as “the firstfruits” two times. This is significant because none of the other resurrections documented in the Bible belonged to the “firstfruits.” More importantly, the Lord’s resurrection is the one that leads to eternal life.
National “Resurrection” Of Israel
Ezekiel documents a special resurrection that doesn’t belong to the resurrection of the firstfruits. It is the national resurrection of Israel.
“The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, 0 Lord God, thou knowest” (Ezekiel 37:1-3).
National identity had to be resurrected as well. For all practical purposes, this was virtually impossible because the Jews were scattered over the entire face of the earth. It seemed as though wherever they settled they were always faced with oppression and persecution. Where they have been permitted to remain, they have become part of the landscape of the nation in which they lived. In Europe they have become European Jews; in Africa they have become African Jews; in Asia they have become Asian Jews; and in America, American Jews. Despite the odds, they have remained Jews; an invisible bond has kept them together. This bond centers on the Bible, their heritage. The Bible has been the only cord of unity binding the Jews throughout the Diaspora.
2000 years after the Diaspora, they are still Jews. Before the state of Israel was founded, many leading anthropologists predicted that it would take hundreds of years for Israel to become a nation of one people again. In spite of these seemingly impossible odds, Israel survived and has become a nation as the matter was taken care of by the Lord. They are caming from virtually all the nations of the world, yet they became “… one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel…”
Resurrection reverses the process from death to life.
First Corinthians 15:23 gives us the order, “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” This includes all who are in Christ, who belong to Him, and are saved based on His shed blood.
The dead in Christ must rise first because their spirit-souls are already in the presence of the Lord without their glorified bodies. Keep in mind that the glorified body can only be attained through the resurrection of the old body. For that reason, we unconditionally believe in the physical resurrection of the Lord.
2) The resurrection as a fulfillment of prophecy.
Now comes the important part: Jesus led His disciples to the prophetic Word. He knew that miracles which we see and hear do not necessarily lead to a living faith, “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day”‘(Luke 24:44-46).
The resurrection is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy and this fulfillment will continue until He has accomplished all things, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1st Corinthians 15:26). Death will be destroyed when His Body is completed.
“So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1st Corinthians 15:54-55).
3) The First And Second Resurrection
We cannot emphasize strongly enough that there is no salvation outside of the Lord Jesus Christ. He clearly stated, “No one cometh unto the Father, but by me.” He is the door, He is the way, He is the truth, He is the light, and He is the life. People are saved only through the shed blood of the Lamb of God.
All believers of all times who have trusted the Lord and are saved for all eternity belong to the first resurrection, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection…” (Revelation 20:6). The first resurrection nullifies the power of death, “…on such the second death hath no power… ” (verse 6).
The last resurrection is described in Revelation 20:12-14, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. ” Grace is not included in this last resurrection.
(MAIN SOURCE: The Great Mystery of the Rapture – Arno Froese – 1999)