Two Resurrections: Christ and Ours?

Dear Roger,

I was wondering about those bodies of holy people who were raised to life after the resurrection of Jesus in Matthew 27:50-53. Who were these people? I was reading the Easter story when this got my attention. I have never heard about them until now. What are your thoughts? By the way, while you are at it, could you enlighten me about the rapture of the church and the second coming of Jesus?

Sincerely, Anna

 

Dear Anna,

 

Frankly, everyone who reads about these resurrected people is just as curious as you. This is the only time that they are mentioned in the Bible. So I suppose we must take this passage at face value. Jesus was not the only one who experienced the resurrection that week. The bodies of some holy people who had died previously were also resurrected. God tells us that their job was to proclaim the message of the gospel and the resurrection of Jesus.

 

We don’t know how long they ministered or how God resurrected them. I doubt that he reburied them so I would imagine that they were the forerunners of what the Bible calls the rapture. The term “rapture” is used to describe the event which occurs to the resurrected bodies of Christians at the second coming of Jesus Christ

 

The Bible says that the second coming and the rapture are closely tied to events in the Middle East. I heard this morning about the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia over the country of Yemen. We all know that the president of the United States is trying to arrange a nuclear treaty with Iran to limit nuclear weapons with Iran as long as Iran promises not to use any against Israel. Recently, the United States president attempted to engineer the democratic elections in Israel to secure the defeat of a man who was dedicated to securing the borders of Israel at all costs. He is doing all he can to prepare for a nuclear attack against his country.

 

We Westerners have such a hard time figuring out the fight in the Middle East. We imagine that if we can just get the Arabs and Israelis to sit down at a table then we can compromise and work everything out.  The diplomats think that somehow that this is a political, economic, and sociological battle which can bring peace and success.  They are ignoring the fact that it is a religious and theological battle.

 

In Genesis 16 we find that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, and his concubine, Hagar, have a great falling out. Abraham is forced to remove Hagar and her son, Ishmael, from his family. Many Arabs are descended from Abraham through Ishmael. All Jews are descended from Abraham through Sarah’s son,, Isaac. God declared that Ishmael would be a wild and uncontrollable man who would fight continually against Isaac.

The fight between the two still rages. This is a family fight. Resolution can only come as we factor in the dimensions of family and theology.

 

Today there are 389 million people of Arab descent (of course, not all Arabs are descended from Ishmael). There are an estimated at 21.7 million Jews, of which 6.3 million are currently living in Israel.

It’s inconceivable that Israel has not been overrun by the Arabs--except that God has a plan for the Jews in the final days.

 

What we see happening in the Persian Gulf is not the end. There must come a time of peace and several more battles before the end comes.

God’s plan for his Church in the final days is currently underway. The central focus of God’s plan revolves around the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is an appropriate topic these days because God’s plan also centers on our resurrection.

 

The very next event in God’s prophetic calendar may well be the “rapture” of the church. The word, “Rapture”, is not found in the Scriptures. “Rapture” is from the Latin word "Rapturo" which means "to catch away."

 

Jesus describes the rapture in Matthew 24:36-41:

 

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”

 

The resurrection of Christ and His followers is a critical part of God’s plan for his followers. We know this because the Second Coming of Christ is mentioned 318 times in the New Testament alone.

 

As we study the Second Coming we immediately notice a paradox. The second coming is in two stages separated by at least seven!

 

*1 Thessalonians 4:17 says that "He'll come in the air." Zechariah says that His feet will land "on the ground."

 

*1 Thessalonians 5:2 and Revelation 16:15 say that He'll come in secret, as a "thief in the night." Revelation 1:7 says that "every eye will behold Him."

 

*Titus 2:13 refers to it as a time of "blessing and hope."  II Thessalonians 1:8-9 shows it as a time of punishment and judgment.

 

*1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and John 14:2-3 says that He will come "for" His saints. Zechariah 14:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; Revelation 19:11-16 says that He will come "with" His saints.

 

The only way to understand this paradox is to realize that Christ's Second Coming is in two stages.

 

The First stage is the Rapture. Christ comes in the air, in secret, for His saints to remove them to Heaven.

 

In the Second stage Christ comes to the ground, with every eye on Him, with His saints, to bring judgment and punishment.

 

I want to list for you all the prophetic events which must be fulfilled before the Rapture can occur. There are none.

His return is imminent.  He could come at any moment.

 

The Apostolic church thought more about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ than about death or Heaven. The Early Christians were not looking for a grave; but for a lightning bolt in the sky !

 

The records tell us that the early Christians topped every hill looking for Jesus. They were constantly looking for His return. They expected him to be right around the corner. The Scriptures often refer to our hope as Christians being the return of Jesus Christ.

 

I recall once getting in big trouble in the fifth grade.  The teacher was outside of the room.  The noise and playing was escalating dramatically the longer she stayed away. We were causing quite uproar when the door opened and there stood the teacher

 

Each of us had to write 500-word-theme on "Why I will Not Disrupt Class When the Teacher Is Gone."

 

What disturbed me the most was the fact that I failed to hear the pitter-patter of her orthopedic wedges coming down the hall.

 

For the rest of the year, every time she left the room we lived in fear of the imminent return of the teacher.

 

When will Christ return for his saints at the rapture? If we read Matthew 24:36-42 and look at the signs of war, devastation, famine, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions it’s easy to deduce that the second coming should occur at any moment. But no one knows for certain.

 

All that we know is that His coming is imminent.  God expects us to be ready at any minute. Jesus tells us that only God knows the moment scheduled for the second coming to begin. Jesus said that in an hour when we think not he will surprise us with His coming.

 

I did have one professor in college who claimed to know what time Jesus would return.  He said, "I know that Jesus is going to come back sometime before 7:00 a.m., because if there's any time when I think not, it's before 7:00 a.m.”

 

In a practical way, we are to plan as though He weren't coming for l000 years, but we are to live as if He were coming today.

 

While no one knows the time of his return, the Bible does give us some insights as to when it might occur. There seems to be three basic options— although there may well be many options God has not even hinted at.

 

The first is called pre-tribulation that declares that before the last seven years of tribulation and hell on earth Jesus will return before the tribulation for his church. The second is called mid-tribulation and posits that the rapture will occur 3 ½ years after a peace treaty is signed which secures for Israel’s safety after which all hell will break loose on earth. The mid-tribulation interpretation has the church experiencing the pain and suffering of the great tribulation for the next 3 ½ years. The third position is called post-tribulation and imagines that the rapture will not occur until the final seven years of earthly destruction are concluded.

In the twinkling of an eye, the rapture occurs.

 

The Lord Jesus himself will descend with the spirits or souls of those who have previously died and are now in heaven. Their bodies will come out of their graves to be united with their heavenly souls into spiritual bodies which are fit to live in heaven forever.

 

When Jesus comes at the rapture, he will not come all the way to earth.  He will return in secret in the air accompanied by a tremendous shout. That shout will penetrate every grave, pierce the deepest seas and be heard by every saint upon earth. I imagine that Jesus will shout the same words that he shouted when he called the dead Lazarus up out of the grave in Bethany: “Lazarus, come forth.” “

 

It’s been said that if Christ hadn't singled out Lazarus, every grave in the graveyard would have opened. So, at the rapture, he leaves off the name “Lazarus” and calls every Christ follower to come forth out of their graves.

 

The Dead in Christ shall rise first.

 

By the way, those who are not Christians are not resurrected until the 1000-year reign of Christ is completed. They will then be resurrected to be judged at THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT where not one of them is declared good enough to enter God’s perfect heaven. They died without a savior and are bound for the Lake of Fire.

 

Of course, Christian bodies will resurrect from all over the world. Many will be in man-made graves. On the other hand, many Christians have gone down at sea; some were burned to death; some were lost in the wild places of the earth; some were cremated; some died in deserts and their bones were left to scorch in the heat; some were torn to bits in explosions. It. doesn't matter to Jesus.  He knows everything and He knows where they are.

 

He comes for the bodies of His loved ones and not a one of them shall be lost.

 

Then, in a “twinkling of an eye,” those Christians who are alive on earth will hear His shout as their bodies are transformed into spiritual bodies fit for heaven. They then rise up in the air to meet Jesus in their journey on to heaven.

 

When all are safely in heaven, THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB occurs. This will be a time of reunion, fellowship and celebration for all of God’s children.

 

But woe to those who are left behind.  They enter a world of horrible hell on earth dominated by plagues, trials, plagues, trials, tribulations, famine and death.

 

The Bible says that we are either saved or not saved. No in between exists.  By what we do with Jesus, we determine what's going to happen to us on that day.

 

Whenever I attend a funeral of a Christian, I can truly say, "Goodbye, I'll see you with Jesus after a little while."

 

Early in my ministry I heard the story about a Christian man Christian man who lay dying.  He had three sons, two were Christians and the third and youngest was a wayward sinner. Dad spoke to his two Christian boys and said: "I'm going to leave you for a little while, but it won't be for long. I'll see you again someday soon.” 

To the youngest boy he said: "Goodbye, my son, goodbye."  The young boy with a broken heart cried out, "Father, why do you say goodbye to me with such finality and tell my brothers that you'll see them again before long?"

Dad replied: "Your brothers trust Jesus as their Savior.  You have rejected Him.  Those who reject Jesus never find a heavenly home.  This is the parting of the ways for us forever.  I'll never see you again.  Goodbye."

The poor boy broke down and sobbed: "Oh, Father, tell me that it's just goodbye for a little while.  I'll trust Jesus as Savior, too."

It will be a great day for those of us who know Jesus as Savior!  Whether we're still alive or have gone to be with Christ and just returned for a spiritual body

We are to be believers who are watching and waiting for Christ's return. We look for our blessed hope (Titus 2:13).

 

According to Paul the resurrection of Jesus is the proof that one day we too shall be resurrected. Paul teaches that everything hangs on the resurrection and if the resurrection is not true then we should all give up and go all because there is no salvation.

 

As far as I’m concerned, Jesus promised that he cheated death, and that if I believe in him I can cheat death and live forever, too.

 

Anna, I hope you find this answer helpful. If you have more questions, please feel free to ask.

Sincerely, Roger

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments + add a comment