1 Thessalonians 4:15, We who are alive. This scripture passage along with others by Paul, James and John clearly indicates that the apostolic writers when writing these passages (i.e. prior to AD 70, the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple) viewed the second coming of Yeshua as imminent, and was not far off in the future. (See also 1 Cor 7:26, 29, 31; 15:52; Rom 13:11; 16:20; Phil 4:5; cp. Jas 5:7–9; 1 John 2:18.) The imminence of Yeshua’s second coming may have been based on a misunderstanding of Yeshua’s own words in his Olivet Discourse where he talks about the events announcing his second coming falling on “this generation” (Matt 24:34, 36). From this passage, it’s not readily understood to which generation he is referring—that one, or another off in the future, or both. It appears that the apostles applied his words to their generation.
1 Thessalonians 4:17, Be caught up. Do I believe in the rapture? Yes, but not as many in the Christian church teach it. For them, the resurrection of the righteous dead occurs before the great tribulation—called the pre-trib rapture.
As you probably know, the word “rapture” is from a Latin word for being “caught up” (or resurrected) as found in 1 Thess 4:17—“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air …” Therefore, a better question to ask would be, do I believe in the resurrection of the dead? Most emphatically I do. The only question is when do I believe the resurrection will occur? As far as I can tell, there are only three obvious answers to that question: before the great tribulation (as much of the Christian church teaches), after the great tribulation, but before the wrath of Elohim is poured out on the earth (what I believe) or after the great tribulation and the wrath (which is what some believe, including some Messianics), which is called the “post trib” position.
The word “caught up” is the Greek word harpazo (Strong’s 726/TDNT 1:472) which is used 13 times in the NT (Matt 11:12; 13:19; John 6:15; 10:12,28,29; Acts 8:39; 23:10; 2 Cor 12:2,4; 1 Thess 4:15; Jude 23; Rev 12:5) and means “to seize, carry off by force, to snatch out or away.” It is found in the NT 13 times and is translated in the KJV as “catch up, take by force, catch away, pluck, catch, pull.”
Of the 13 places this word is found in the NT here are the places where its usage is analogous to that of 1 Thess 4:17,
- Acts 8:39, The Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip…
- 2 Cor 12:2,4 Paul is caught up to the third heaven/paradise in a vision …
- Rev 12:5, The child (Yeshua) is caught up unto God … This is speaking about Yeshua’s bodily resurrection after his death.
So yes, I believe in the “rapture” or more accurately, being caught up to heaven, or resurrected. The only question is the timing of the resurrection. That’s what I explain in my teaching entitled, “The Tribulation, the Great Tribulation and the Wrath of Elohim,” which you have.
When Is the Rapture or the First Resurrection and Who Will Be In It?
The Resurrection of the Dead — A Fundamental Doctrine of the Gospel
The concept of the resurrection of the dead is a fundamental biblical concept and one of the main doctrines underlying the gospel message as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews states:
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Messiah, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward Elohim, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Heb 6:1–2)
What Is the Rapture?
The concept of the rapture has bandied about in the church quite a lot in recent years. Many doctrines of men have risen up around this concept and captured the attention and hopes of many modern believers. Let’s explore the what the Bible has to say about the rapture.
The word rapture comes from the Latin word raptura, which is a translation of the biblical Greek word harpazo meaning “to seize, carry off by force, claim for one’s self eagerly.” The idea of the rapture is based on 1 Thessalonians 4:17 where the phrase caught up refers to the glorification of the saints at Yeshua’s second coming.
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up [Gr. harpazo] clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
The rapture, catching away or resurrection refers to saints receiving their glorified bodies — being changed from mortal to immortal. Those saints who are alive when Yeshua returns will be caught up to meet him in the air, while the righteous dead saints will be resurrected from their graves also meet the Messiah in the air at the same time. According to the Bible, the rapture or catching away will occur. The question is when does it occur?
The two primary passages in the Testimony of Yeshua (or New Testament) that speak about the resurrection are 1 Corinthians 15:51–54 1 and Thessalonians 4:13–17.
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. (1 Cor 15:51–54)
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 Yeshua died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Yeshua will Elohim bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the YHVH, 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 Elohim: and the dead in Messiah 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. (1 Thess 4:13–17)
The First Resurrection
The rapture is simply a euphemism for the resurrection of the dead. How many resurrections of the dead are there? Revelation 20:5 and 6 mention a first resurrection. If there’s a first resurrection, there must be at least a second resurrection.
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Yeshua, and for the word of Elohim, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Messiah a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of Elohim and of Messiah, and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Rev 20:4–6)
According to this passage, those in the first resurrection receive the highest spiritual reward — that is, to rule and reign with Yeshua during his millennial kingdom on earth as kings and priests.
If there’s a first resurrection, there must be additional ones. We will discuss this more below.
When Does the First Resurrection Occur?
The first resurrection occurs at the last trumpet. This we know from 1 Corinthians 15:51–53.
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.
This last trumpet is likely the last of the seven trumpets of Revelation 11. Some Bible students see this as a reference to the last trumpet that is sounded on the biblical holiday of Yom Teruah, which occurs in the early fall each year. This is another discussion beyond the scope of this work, which I cover in great detail in my online article on Yom Teruah (go to hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/yom_teruah.pdf). Suffice it to say, an understanding of the biblical holidays is crucial to understanding the order of end time events. The seven biblical holidays or holy days give us a chronological road map, blue print or outline to follow to help us to navigate through the murky waters of end times biblical prophecy. Not understanding them is why there’s so much confusion in the church about the timing of the rapture or first resurrection. It’s due to a lack of understand of the biblical feasts.
In addition, a misunderstanding of the timing of the rapture is based on a lack of understanding the three time periods that make up the end times. These three periods are the tribulation, the great tribulation and the wrath of Elohim (For a more comprehensive study on this subject, read my online article on the subject at hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/tribulation.pdf.) Sadly, too many Bible teachers conflate these three distinct time periods into one end time event, which they label as the tribulation. Suffice it to say, tribulation has been going on globally for the saints since the death of Stephen in the Book of Acts (see Matt 24:3–20). In the end times immediately prior to the return of Yeshua, that tribulation will intensify into what Yeshua called the great tribulation (see Matt 24:21–28 cp. Rev 7:14). The great tribulation will be followed by the wrath of Elohim (see Rev 6:17; 11:18; 15:1, 7).
So in the light of these three end time periods, when does the resurrection of the righteous dead occur? Yeshua plainly states in Matthew 24:29 that his coming will be after the tribulation of those days (i.e. the general tribulation and great tribulation). His coming to earth will be followed by the gathering of Yeshua’s elect from the four corners of the earth by his angels when the great trumpet sounds (Matt 24:31, 36–44). This is a clear reference to the first resurrection at Yeshua’s second coming. Corollary scriptures to this passage are 1 Corinthians 15:51–53; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–17; Revelation 11:15–19. All these scriptures relate the resurrection of the righteous dead to the sounding of a heavenly trumpet and the second coming of Yeshua. In the Matthew 24 and Revelation 11 passages, this resurrection occurs after the great tribulation, and according to the Revelation passage, it occurs before the seven last plagues of or bowl judgments of Revelation 15 and 16, which is the last half of the wrath of Elohim.
It should be obvious to anyone with a minimal knowledge of history that the saints have been going through tribulation for 2000 years and still are to this day in may nations around the world. In fact, the Scriptures state that tribulation and persecution is the destiny of the saints (Matt 5:10–22; 13:21; Luke 21:12; John 15:20; 16:33; Acts 14:22; Rom 8:35; 12:12). Yet, Scripture clearly states that they will not go through the wrath of Elohim, which occurs just before the second coming (1 Thess 1:10; 5:9 and Luke 21:36). The wrath of Elohim is his judgments against the unrepentant wicked.
In the Book of Revelation, YHVH promises to spare his saints (the 144,000 [Rev 7:1–8] and the great and innumerable multitude that have been saved out of the great tribulation [Rev 7:9–14]. Some saints will even receive a protective divine seal on their foreheads, so that they won’t be harmed by the plagues about to come upon the earth (Rev 7:2–4; 14:1–5). Additionally, it appears that during the seven trumpets part of the wrath of Elohim, the saints will be protected supernaturally in the wilderness for three-and-one-half years (Rev 12:14). After this, when the seventh trumpet sounds, they will be caught up to meet Yeshua in the air just prior to him pouring out the seven last bowl judgment plagues of Revelation 15 and 16.
While in the wilderness, the saints will be purified spiritually in preparation to meet Yeshua their heavenly Bridegroom at his second coming (Ezek 20:35–38), even as YHVH purified the children of Israel before allowing them into the Promised Land (Deut 8:2–5). In the wilderness, the saints will purified of any sin and rebellion to YHVH’s Torah commandments they might still have. The Book of Revelation reveals that these saints are characterized by the fact that they keep the (Torah) commandments of Elohim and also have faith in Yeshua as the Messiah (Rev 12:17; 14:12).
What About a Second Resurrection and Who Will Be in It?
If there’s a first resurrection, then there must be more. If so, then when? It’s my belief that there’s a second resurrection at the white throne judgment of Revelation 20:11–15. In this passage we read that the heavenly record books will be opened and the wicked will be judged at this time and then cast into the lake of fire. But the Book of Life will also be opened, for those who were in this book were judged according to their works. Those who weren’t found in the Book of Life were cast into the lake of fire. This indicates that those whose names are in the Book of Life will inherit eternal life at that time. This implies a second resurrection occurring at the white throne judgment.
In Jewish tradition there are three categories of people and three heavenly books opened during the last judgment. These are Book of Life for the righteous, the Book of the Dead for the wicked and Book of the Undecided for those who are neither wholly wicked nor righteous. Do we see any indications of these three groups in Revelation during the tribulation and wrath periods? Yes.
The righteous (saints) are mentioned several times during the tribulation period (the seven seals and seven trumpets, Rev 6:11; 7:3; 9:14; 9:4; 11:13; 12:17; 13:7; 14:12) and of course, as noted above, the same saints are raptured (or “harvested”) at the sound of the last trumpet blast at the seventh trumpet (Rev 11:15–18; 14:4–5; Matt 24:31, 39–40).
The wicked (those who take the mark of the beast) are mentioned in numerous places in the Book of Revelation during the tribulation and wrath periods, but specifically note the judgment poured out against them in Revelation 14:14–20, which is the wrath of Elohim.
But what about the undecided — the intermediate people, those who are neither wholly wicked nor wholly righteous? Are they mentioned as being on earth during the wrath of Elohim period when the seven last plagues or bowl judgments are poured out? In Revelation 16:2, we read that grievous sores are poured out upon those who have taken the mark of the beast and who worship his image. By implication there appears to be a group of people alive on earth who will refuse to take the mark or worship the image of the beast. These people will not be afflicted with grievous sores.
Additionally, Revelation 14:4 calls those who will be caught away or harvested (to meet Yeshua in the air) on Yom Teruah the first fruits among those redeemed (or saved) among men. Clearly, this statement makes no sense if there are not more to be redeemed (saved) at a later time. This could refer to those who will have an opportunity during the wrath of Elohim period to be redeemed, as well as those Jews that, at the coming of Yeshua, will “look upon [Yeshua] whom they have pierced and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for his only son …” (Zech 12:10).
Who will be in this second resurrection? Definitely not those who took the mark of the beast, for they will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev 19:20). It will be those physical humans that those in the first resurrection ruled and reigned over along with Yeshua (the King of kings) during the Millennium. Not every person will die during the trumpet and bowl judgments. Those who survive will continue to live into the Millennium. Isaiah seems to allude to this when he writes,
There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. (Isa 65:20)
This indicates that the physical people alive during the Millennium will either be cursed or damned depending on their spiritual status when they die.
What Will the Saint’s Glorified Resurrected Bodies Be Like?
In several places, Paul uses the term adoption in reference to the saints being adopted into the family of Elohim as his sons (Gal 4:5; Rom 8:15, 23; Eph 1:5). Sadly, being born into the spiritual family of Elohim is not something talked much about in the modern church, yet the apostles clearly taught this in the Testimony of Yeshua. Let’s note a few passages that speak of this.
But as many as received [Yeshua], to them He gave the right to become children of Elohim, to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12)
For as many as are led by the Spirit of Elohim, they are the sons of Elohim. (Rom 8:14)
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Rom 8:15)
And if children, then heirs; heirs of Elohim, and joint-heirs with Messiah; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Rom 8:17)
And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living Elohim. (Rom 9:26)
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor 6:18)
For ye are all the children of Elohim by faith in Messiah Yeshua. (Gal 3:26)
And because ye are sons, Elohim hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. (Gal 4:6)
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of Elohim: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. (1 John 3:1)
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his Elohim, and he shall be my son. (Rev 21:7)
As we have noted, in Galatians, Paul speaks of redeemed believers being both Abraham’s seed and being adopted as sons of Elohim (Gal 3:29; 4:5). Elsewhere where the term adoption is used in the Testimony of Yeshua, it is in reference to our relationship with our Heavenly Father, not with our earthly father, Abraham. The redeemed are therefore, sons or the seed of Abraham, yet adopted into the family of Elohim as spiritual sons (Rom 8:15, 23; Eph 1:5). In other words, the saints are literal sons or seed (physically) of Abraham, yet adopted sons (spiritually) of YHVH. This adoption will be finalized or completed at the resurrection when the saints receive their spiritual bodies (Rom 8:23), for then they will be like him for they shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2). We know from Yeshua’s post resurrection appearances to his disciples that he had a glorified body. It had form and shape, and he was able to talk and eat, yet he was able to appear and disappear, move about at will without hinderance of time and space and it was able to pass through solid objects.
The concept of the resurrection and glorification of the righteous dead is not unique to the Testimony of Yeshua portion of the Bible, but has been a hope that the saints have held going back to the earliest biblical times as noted by the following passages.
So man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep. Oh, that You would hide me in the grave, that You would conceal me until Your wrath is past, That You would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes. You shall call, and I will answer You; You shall desire the work of Your hands. (Job 12:14–15)
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see Elohim, whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25–27)
As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. (Ps 17:15)
But Elohim will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me. (Ps 49:14)
He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord YHVH will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For YHVH has spoken. (Isa 25:8)
Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. (Isa 26:19)
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. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. (Dan 12:2–3)
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! Pity is hidden from My eyes. (Hos 14:15)
Here are some additional passages from the Testimony of Yeshua on the resurrection of the dead:
And if Messiah be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Yeshua from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Messiah from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.… For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of Elohim.… Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of Elohim. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Rom 8:10, 11, 19, 21–23)
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. (Phil 3:21)
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of Elohim: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of Elohim, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:1–3)