The Rapture (the process)
The process of the rapture is actually well catalogued in scripture as well. As with all things, here, too, the Lord is a God of great order and well placed step.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV)13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
To begin this orderly process, a shout followed by the command of an angel is given:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel….
Some have noted difficulty understanding why the Lord would respond to the command of an archangel. However it is not entirely necessary that the angel is he who grants the command, only that a command is given “with the voice” of an archangel. Angels are creatures of order as well, each with a rank and responsibilities. They are not called the hosts of Heaven without reason. They follow orders. Even to grant a command would be done in response to an order; the order of the Father that the time has come for the rapture event to take place. Thus, this order is given with the trumpet call of God.
Trumpets were used for a call to battle or for worship summons. The rapture begins with a similar summons from God, followed by the command shouted from the archangel, followed by the invocation of the rapture event.
The process of the rapture is one of order as well. All saints are not raptured simultaneously, but each in their turn, beginning with the dead in Christ; and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Prior to the living, the dead will resurrect and rise to meet Christ. It should be noted for those of unclear understanding that this speaks of a physical resurrection for the dead in Christ. The spirits of the dead will return with Christ from Heaven to meet up with their bodies, as referenced in v.14: . 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. Thus the spirit is rejoined with the body of those dead in Christ. What a fascinating observation it will be to see how exactly the Lord will reconstitute the bodies of those who have been dead for thousands of years!
The term “in Christ” in this text limits the resurrection to those who have the Holy Spirit , the church. “In Christ” is a uniquely New Testament post-conversion term indicating the indwelling Christ through the Holy Spirit. Those which have not received the Holy Spirit are not thus “in Christ” as are the New Testament saints, or the church. Thus it should now be noted that the Old Testament saints are not a part of the rapture process, but will be raised at a later time (to be discussed later in this work).
Verse 17 then notes, “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”
Some see the phrase “we who are still alive and are left” as evidence of a post-tribulational rapture. They understand “still alive” to refer to those which Antichrist has not killed during the tribulation. While that position does appear plausible in this text, nothing is indicative of the tribulation. We who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord refers to those who have not died, but continue to live until the Lord’s coming to rapture them. The Great Tribulation needs not be fulfilled for some to have died and others to be left living. The text is making a very general assertion; some will have died, and they will be taken first, others will still be living and will be taken thereafter.
The next phrase And so we will be with the Lord forever, indicates that the church will never again be separated from the Lord. She will be where he is for the duration of eternity, including the Millennial Reign and his return in glory. The church’s position with Christ for all eternity will be demonstrated throughout this work, as will the positions the church will fill during various elements of future history.