“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NASB
This passage will be our main focus of studies concerning the glorious event of the resurrection of the Dead – a fundamental subject every believer ought to know (Heb. 6:1-2). For this cause, we are going to take the passage apart – phrase by phrase- and look into them with as much intensity as the Lord will allow us.
Firstly, the opening verse above though compressed in just a few sentences, represents series of events. Many assume that these events will happen at the same time. But that may not be so.
The Apostle Paul mentioned nothing concerning the exact timing except for the use of word “then” which signifies what would happen next. Next can mean the very next second, minute, hour, day, year, decade etc. Any of these can happen. I strongly advise that we all don’t see this passage only as a scene within the “time box” of a few seconds or minutes. This can help us better discern more accurately what the Lord would be or is doing concerning this event.
All we can glean from the passage is that the events will happen in the order as given above. Very little information was given on the precise timing of the order of these events. This would be true if we only look at the New Testament writings for our answers.
Some may ask, How did Paul get all these revelation concerning the resurrection of the Dead? Well, there’s the Spirit of God. Obviously. Also, there’s the Word of God. The complete Word of God.
The Bible was not mainly divided into two totally unrelated sections called the Old and New Testaments. The entire Bible is a story of God’s glorious plan for His creation. Every single word and scene is connected to each other all the way to the end through the conduit of time. Paul understood this principle. He got his revelations from the Old Testament – The Law and the Prophets.
In the days of Jesus, his disciples and even Paul, they never had a New Testament Bible. They wrote it in the first place. Their writings was later termed “The New Testament.” However, to the people who wrote them, they did so just as a continuation of a wonderful story of God’s plan from the beginning. Take Paul for instance, all Paul knew and studied was the “Old testament” and the Holy Spirit opened his eyes to understand the scriptures. Those are what we see in his epistles. The same goes for the acts, sayings and teachings of Jesus who came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.
Quite early in Church History, the law was discarded as being “Jewish” and so a number of Christians, even till today, have rejected and thus excluded the Law and the Prophets from being part of the revelation of the second coming of Christ.
For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
Matthew 11:13 NASB
The Law and Prophets have been prophesying about the plan of God. Many of Jesus’ disciples found that about this aspect of the “Old Testament” right after Jesus died. One example is the revelation concerning Judas Iscariot’s demise after he betrayed Jesus (Acts 1:15-20). This revelation was found way back in the book of Psalms, written by David.
The law and the prophets (“Old Testament”) also prophesied about Christ. Jesus affirmed personally to this:
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
John 5:46-47 NASB
Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament and Jesus affirmed that Moses wrote about Him. Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy all spoke about Christ. How much of Christ do you know from these books?
Jesus is the Word made flesh. Not just the New Testament but the Old too. Besides, he left all of us this principle when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness.
“But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.”
Matthew 4:4 NASB
First, Jesus asserted that man must also live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Every word means every word. The law, prophets, historical events etc. also constitute the Word of God. Every man was advised by Jesus, to live by them.
Secondly, did you notice that Jesus stated, “it is written…” Jesus was no hypocrite. He lived by the same principle. He lived also by every word that proceeded from God. The statement, “it is written …” displayed that Jesus read it from somewhere else. This passage was taken from Deuteronomy 8:3. He took the statement from the Law. If Jesus did, why shouldn’t you?
Many of the apostles, both in their speech and writings, have several instances where they refer to scripture passages of the “Old Testament.” One deciding example was when Peter used the scripture extract from the Book of Joel (Prophets ) to explain the glorious occurrence of pouring forth of the Holy Ghost to dwell in the bodily temple of God’s children on the Day of Pentecost. The Old Testament prophesied of that event which the church continues to experience even now.
The New is the reality and further unveiling of the Old. They interconnect to tell a wonderful story. Once cannot understand the New Testament completely without understanding what it was meant to reveal – which is in the Old. You need both to have a clearer picture of what God is trying to say. Otherwise, all you will have is an incomplete picture. This is why many have made several mistakes when trying to interpret so many things from the New Testament. An example being the erred predictions many made from the Book of Revelation – all New Testament teachings without the foundation from the Old.
In these series, we are going to look at the resurrection of the Dead as spoken from both sides of the Bible and connect them to have a better picture of this wonderful plan of God. Won’t that be exciting ?!