The Rapture and Resurrection of the Church
The Rapture & Resurrection
By Dr. Daniel E Woodhead
We must remember that:
The more literally we take the Bible, the more fundamental our theology becomes. The less literally we take the Bible, the more liberal our theology becomes.
If we go the liberal route God’s message to us is lost.
Defining the Church:
In Revelation Chapters two and three the “visible” church which some see can represent all church history. The Church has two general groupings. One is called the “visible” church and it encompasses all who call themselves “Christian”. It has different names, such as Roman Catholic, Protestant, Reformed, Episcopal, Methodist etc. It is comprised of both unbelievers and believers.
The other is called the “invisible” Church. It is solely comprised of all true believers on the Lord Jesus Christ. In Colossians 1:18 the Church is stated to be the Body of the Messiah.
Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence.
The composition of this Body, that is, the “invisible” Church, is given in Ephesians 2:11-16.
Ephesians 2:11-16 Wherefore remember, that ye [being] in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition [between us]; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, [even] the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, [so] making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
The composition of the Church, the Body of Christ is a combination of Jews and Gentiles united together by faith in Jesus. As this passage shows there is no such thing as a Gentile Church or Jewish Church. Thus the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise of Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:6) The Gentiles are fellow-partakers. A major purpose of the Church Age is a calling out from among the Gentiles by the gospel according to Acts 15:14:
Act 15:14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name
According to Romans 11:25-27, this calling out of the Gentiles will continue until the full number of Gentiles that God has ordained to be saved (through the tribulation) has been reached:
Romans 11:25-27 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this [is] my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
One gets into the “invisible” Church Body by Spirit Baptism after belief.
1Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether [we be] Jews or Gentiles, whether [we be] bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
By the use of the future tense Christ (Matt 16:18) referred to the Church as future yet to the period of the Gospels during His first Advent.
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
By the use of the future tense Acts 1:5 makes it clear that Spirit Baptism was still future in Acts one:
Act 1:5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
The first time the term church is used is in Matthew 16:18, and here the future tense is used: I will build my church. The church did not exist in the Old Testament, nor did it exist during the time of gospel history.
Spirit Baptism was then future to Acts 2 and it is clearly stated in Acts 11:15-16:
Act 11:15-16 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
So the Church is:
- The Body of the Christ
- Composed of Jews and Gentile believers
- Entered by Spirit Baptism
- Began at Pentecost (Acts 2)
- Is composed of all true believers from Acts 2 (Pentecost) until the rapture.
- It does not include OT Saints
- It excludes Tribulation Saints
- Only those: In Christ; In Jesus; in Jesus Christ, in Christ Jesus; in Him; in Whom; in the Lord. The Apostle Paul used these preceding terms to identify those who were baptized by the Spirit into the body of the Messiah, which only began in Acts two.
So, the next event on God’s timetable for The Church is the Resurrection and Rapture of Church Age believers.
The Doctrine of The Resurrection:
At death the human spirit is separated from the body. (Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 12:7; 2 Corinthians 5:8) A resurrection is an event whereby a dead body is raised to immortal life for some explicit purpose. This is different from somebody coming back to life. This doctrine is two-fold, pertaining to (A) the resurrection of Christ and (B) the resurrection of humanity, including both saved and unsaved. In other words death does not end life, it starts it! In the Old Testament, the Doctrine of Resurrection is taught in Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2-3; Hosea 12:14. It was believed by the patriarchs (Genesis 22:5; with Hebrews 11:19; Job 19:25-27) and revealed through the prophets.
In the New Testament it is taught in John 5:25-29, and Revelation 20:4-6, 11-15. This doctrine contains the implication of immortality. They are raised to live forever. Christ was the first one to be raised from the dead with a resurrected body. Others were raised from the dead such as Lazarus but he had a normal body and died later. There are two different resurrections. The first resurrection has five stages and the second has only one.
The Doctrine of The Rapture:
It is important to realize that the word Rapture does not appear in our English Bibles. The Greek word harpazo is used in 1 Thessalonians 4, which is translated as “caught up.” in English. It is Strong’s # 726. It means to grasp, to snatch up, to capture, to lift, to transport or rapture. Our word “rapture” comes from the first Latin translation of the Bible by Jerome called the Vulgate. Cir 385 A.D. The Latin word for the Greek harpazo is “Rapturo.” For some reason the Anglicized form of this word has remained in the common Christian lexicon instead of “caught up” or “harpazo”.
First, the promise of the Rapture:
John 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also.
Second, The Scriptural Discussion of the Rapture of Church Age Believers:
1 Th 4:13-18 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
The seven stages are:
- The Lord Descends
- With a Shout
- With the voice of the Archangel
- With the trump of God
- The dead in Christ rise first
- We that are alive join them in the air
- We meet the Lord in the air and are ever with Him.
Jesus Discusses The Timing of the Rapture
Luke 21:34-36 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and [so] that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
Jesus gives two reasons for watching:
- That believers may escape all these things that shall come to pass during the Tribulation. What Luke states must not be missed. He points out that the Tribulation will come upon all them that dwell upon the face of the earth (v 35). In other words, no one living on the earth can escape the effects of the Tribulation. It will fall upon all earth dwellers. Luke also states that there is a possibility to prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass (v.36). This is not possible if one is on the earth. Therefore to escape all these things one must be off the earth.
- That the believer might stand before the Son of Man in heaven. This will be the result of the Rapture: we stand before the Son of Man, and by standing before Him, we escape all these things. Both of these things can only be accommodated by the Rapture, and that is why to watch is to be saved.
Third, Our Bodies change
I Corinthians 15:50-58 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality. 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? The sting of death [is] sin; and the strength of sin [is] the law. But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
The nature of the glorified body is described in:
I Corinthians 15:35-49 But some [man] will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? [Thou] fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other [grain]: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh [is] not the same flesh: but [there is] one [kind of] flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, [and] another of birds. [There are] also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial [is] one, and the [glory]of the terrestrial [is] another. [There is] one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for [one] star differeth from [another] star in glory .So also [is] the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [was made] a quickening spirit Howbeit that [was] not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man [is] of the earth, earthy: the second man [is] the Lord from heaven. As [is] the earthy, such [are] they also that are earthy: and as [is] the heavenly, such [are] they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
- It is a body that is incorruptible
- It is a glorified body
Philippians 3:21 Who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
- It is a body of resurrection power
- It is a spiritual body
- It is a heavenly body
- It is an immortal body.
Some information may be gleaned from the resurrected Jesus’ body, but we do not know what attributes are from the resurrection and which are attributed to His deity.
- His voice was recognized as being the same one He had before His death. (John 20:16)
- His physical features were recognized although not always immediately (John 20:26-29)
- It was a real body of flesh and bone since it was embraceable (John 20:17; 27)
- He was able to suddenly disappear (Luke 24:31)
- He could go through walls (John 20:19)
- His body could eat food (Luke 24:41-43)
Finally, the verses in I Corinthians 15:54-58 demonstrate that the body changing from corruption to incorruption is the final victory over death. This in addition to providing us some information on the nature of the change also lets us understand how the process is handled by God for those believers on the earth who are transformed at the Rapture to get an immortal body.
THE ORDERLY STAGES OF THE RAPTURE AND RESURRECTIONS
Christ The Firstfruits:
Christ who has already been resurrected.
The First Resurrection:
- At the time of the Rapture. New Testament Believers who died believing in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 52-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16)
- The Two Witnesses in the middle of the Tribulation.
- Old Testament Saints (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2)
- Tribulation Saints (Rev 20:4)
The Second Resurrection:
- The Second Resurrection. (Rev 20:13) Whereas the first resurrection was comprised of Believers only, the second will be unbelievers only.
Scripture makes it clear that there is an order or sequential nature to the first resurrection. The Greek word for order is tagma, which is a military term that is used to denote a sequence of troops of soldiers marching in a procession or in battle. (Strong’s Greek word # 5001; tagma) There is one troop first, followed by another troop or division, and so on. The point is that not all the righteous will be resurrected at the same time, but rather in a definite sequential order. (1 Cor 15:20-23) So before the thousand-year Millennium is established the saints are resurrected in their proper order and after the Millennial Kingdom (1,000 years) the unbelievers.
1Corinthians 15:20-23 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.
The Resurrection of the Old Testament Saints
The Rapture will include only the Church saints and it will occur before the Great Tribulation. Later, during the seventy-five day interval, the Old Testament saints will be resurrected. This is stated by two Old Testament passages, the first being in Isaiah 26:19:
Your dead shall live; my dead bodies shall arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast forth the dead.
This is a general statement of the fact that a resurrection will some day take place. A clearer picture is found in the second passage in Daniel 12:2:
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.
A more literal rendering of this passage would read as follows: “And [at that time] many [of your people] shall awake or be separated out from among the sleepers in the earth’s dust. These who awake shall be unto life everlasting, but those [the rest of the sleepers who do not awake at this time] shall be unto shame and contempt everlasting.”
This passage draws a clear distinction between the resurrection of the righteous and the resurrection of the unrighteous. Only the righteous saints will be resurrected at this time in order to partake of the blessings of the Millennial Kingdom. These are the friends of the bridegroom (John 3:29) who will be invited to the wedding feast with which the Millennium will begin.
In the context of Daniel 12:2, Daniel is speaking of events after the Tribulation and, therefore, this is the time that the Old Testament saints will be resurrected.
The Resurrection of the Tribulation Saints
Not only will there be a resurrection of Old Testament saints, but also a resurrection of those saints who will be killed in the course of the Great Tribulation according to Revelation 20:4:
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
In this verse, John sees two groups of saints co-reigning with Messiah. First are those to whom judgment was given. The judgment spoken of here is the Judgment Seat of the Messiah. These saints, then, will be the Church saints who will be resurrected at the Rapture of the Church and will receive their rewards in the course of the judgment.
But the second group of saints that John sees are identified as those who have been beheaded because they did not worship the Antichrist or his image, nor were they willing to consent to receive the mark of the Beast. These will be witnessed to by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists described in Revelation chapter 7. Obviously, then, these cannot be anyone else but the Tribulation saints and they, too, will be resurrected at this time.
Daniel E. Woodhead Ph.D.
 Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (2003). The footsteps of the Messiah : A study of the sequence of prophetic events (Rev. ed.) (367–368). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.