But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
This is obviously a description of the first resurrection and a confirmation of a gathering of the dead into the air which we have come to associate with the Rapture, which follows and is made to be a part of that gathering. But the question remains are there multiple parts to the first resurrection separated by time? This is the the question that must be answered in order to help resolve the rapture when debate.
This passage speaks of those who have fallen asleep in Jesus, and of the dead in Christ. The passage actually makes them the same. Some who had accepted Jesus as the Christ have now died. So we can say that they are the dead in Christ, but what of those dead that Jesus visited along with the thief in paradise while in the belly of the earth? Are they also the dead in Christ? Eph. 4 says that they were led captive. Paradise was moved to heaven. If they are also the dead in Christ they then must be included in this part if there is a separate part of the first resurrection. But that still does not answer the question at hand.
The Lord teaches a resurrection and rapture from the four corners of Heaven and the earth. We see this in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. His in fact is the first description of the Rapture to take place in conjunction with His return that is recorded within history or the Scripture. When Daniel speaks of the Lord taking dominion in His coming kingdom we are not told the sequence of these events and the Rapture is not mentioned.
Pre-Trib theology tells us that the first resurrection has many parts. The following is supposed to be one of those.
The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; (Matthew 27:52).
Many Jewish bodies were raised in conjunction with Jesus’ own resurrection, but not all of those then in the grave, just many. So this definitely qualifies as a miracle maybe even a much greater one then the resurrection of Lazarus. It also qualifies as a sign from heaven showing God’s control over Jesus’ resurrection, but it is not “the first resurrection” as we will see. The fact that the first resurrection is not mentioned is significant, but the lack of a word is not proof. And further based on this scripture we have no idea if these who were resurrected ever died again as did Lazarus. But then we can’t really point to a scripture saying that he died again.
What we do know is that all the dead of Israel had not been resurrected, for had they been there would have been crowds exiting the tombs at the time of Jesus resurrection. Multiple times more than those already in the city for Passover. So was this a part of the first resurrection? Think about this. The first resurrection requirements are immortality and incorruption. The biggest requirement is that no one in Christ preceded Him in resurrection, because He is the first fruits. Lazarus was resurrected but his body was not a first resurrection body like Jesus’ body, which was able to appear and disappear. He walked through walls. He carried the scars of His death, yet showed no signs of their effect on Him physically. If these Saints had been first resurrection saints would there not have been much written about them in history to include their appearance and their feats, since we know that they did walk the streets of Jerusalem?
Some also tell us that Jesus’ resurrection was part of the first resurrection.
“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.” (Matthew 20:18-19).
This is where Jesus predicts His own resurrection, and other Scripture calls Him the first fruits of the resurrection. But although His resurrection makes the resurrection to eternal life possible, it is not the first resurrection of the dead in Him that Paul says His coming will trigger.
If we look back to Daniel chapter 7 we find the little horn and his dominion being judged and the establishment of the kingdom of the Lord, but no description as to resurrections and rapture. In chapter 12:2 of Daniel we read of the resurrection of some to everlasting life, and of others to everlasting contempt. A cursory reading of this passage would imply only two resurrections. One of the just and another of the unjust. But there is no teaching of how this will occur. So Jesus’ teaching is the first we have regarding these events.
Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken.” (Mark 12:24-27).
Jesus is here proving the resurrection as fact, because there has been division over this between the Sadusees and Pharisees. And He is proving that Israel’s saints are definitely included in the resurrection.
Of Jesus own resurrection it is said. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying (Matthew 28:6).
This is the actual account of Jesus resurrection. The only account that we see using the term first resurrection is not until we come to Revelation.
Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4).
These that John is seeing are Tribulation saints who are to be killed obviously during the tribulation and before the kingdom age; and they are as we shall see definitely made part of the first resurrection. They will reign with Christ as will we for 1000 years.
The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:5-6).
Unless one can prove a pre-Tribulation Resurrection for all the new covenant saints which would be separate from Israel’s own New Covenant blessing; then these scriptures offer very strong evidence for the post-Trib timing of the first resurrection. The Holy Spirit has stated here in this passage in very clear terms that “This is the first resurrection.”
But the pre-trib answer to this is to point us to the coming of the Lord as a theif on the Day of the Lord. Yet the Day of the Lord is explicit with detail in Old Testament Scripture. (See my write up on the Day of the Lord). In that writing you will find Scripture proving that The day of the Lord begins the Millennial reign, it does not begin the Tribulation.
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire ( Revelation 20:12, 15).
This is of course the second resurrection. And concerning this resurrection there seems to be little dispute among premillennials. So where do we find scriptural truth for only one “the first” resurrection? Or is it a multiple first resurrection?
For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death (1 Corinthians 15:21-26).
This resurrection for all men in Christ is made clear again in Romans 5:19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
One thing is certain, there is no mention of a pre-trib resurrection in any of the passages of Scripture, and neither have the pre-Trib scholars found any, but with this passage there is an attempt by dispensationalists to apply those who are Christ’s at His coming to a Dispensational understanding of the church only. One that separates Israel out as another resurrection which is not mentioned here, but one to them that would still be part of what the Scripture calls the first resurrection. But the bigger problem for them is the fact that these scriptures teach that it is only in Christ that man who was made dead in Adam will now be made alive. Christ (Messiah) alone is the giver of eternal life, and for that life to be given one must be in Him, not sacrificing Animals to His Father, but actually in Him.
So if this is true then all men if they have been made alive spiritually before God must be in Christ. This is a condition to their being raised from the dead. He is the God of the living not of the dead. So all men from the time of creation, even to include Adam must come to Him. The above passage makes being in Christ a requirement for being made alive before God in eternity through the resurrection.
There is one other problem for a pre-Trib understanding that arises from this verse. The passage says: “But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end”. This statement makes it impossible for anyone to be resurrected before His coming. Therefore all those all the way back to Adam who are made alive by this one man Jesus (the Christ) are subject to a resurrection at His coming. Why?–because He led them from Their captivity in Sheol to His captivity in Heaven. And their answer that there are two comings is unproven, because there is no scripture calling for a division of those in Christ. So herein is their problem- this must include all of Israel’s past saints in this resurrection. So do we have our answer totally resolved? You surly can see that the inclusion of the Old Testament saints of Israel with this resurrection taught in New Covenant Scripture is unavoidable for they are now dead in Christ, and this makes them part of the bride of Christ. And this lines up perfectly with Paul’s Ephesians teaching concerning our being one with the saints and included in their promises.
So you may ask how then does one prove that there is only one part to the first resurrection, and one part to the second coming? So let’s go back to 1 Thessalonians 4: “we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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.
Here we see that this resurrection of which Paul speaks is for the dead in Christ and we now know that all men all the way back to Adam who will resurrect are among the dead in Christ. This demands that all men who are ever to be made part of the first resurrection must be raised at this very same time that Paul teaches the Rapture will take place. The dead in Christ will rise first. Paul in this passage makes the point that the Rapture will not preceded the resurrection of those who are dead in Christ. And he has made it clear that the dead in Christ are resurrected just before the Rapture. In order to make another time for the resurrection of the Tribulation’s Nation of Israel, it must be determined that this this then future but now present day Israel is never going to be in Christ. And if they are never in Christ they can never be made alive to immortality.
If the Church in Christ is defined as not being meant for Israel then the resurrection of Israel’s dead makes Paul’s writings false. For these scriptures teach that only in Christ can man made dead in the sin of Adam be made alive in the resurrection. So then will there be no resurrection for Israel, because Israel according to Dispensational theology can not belong to Christ? They do not raise Israel’s dead until seven years later after those who are in Christ are raised. Yet according to these scriptures they must also be in Christ in order to be raised. This makes no sense in light of Peter’s message to the men of Israel in Acts 3:
While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement. But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. But the things which God announced before hand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time (Acts 3:11-12, 17-21).
Peter here is calling for Israel’s repentance and for their acceptance of their Christ. But this he calls a return, a return to what? The one appointed for them, who will not come until they do so. Once they have done what Peter has called on them to do will they not be Christ’s? Does this call for their return not carry with it the conclusion that at one time Israel’s saints who went before their rejection of Christ were somehow in Him? Based upon what Paul says they had to be, because only those in Christ will be made alive in the First resurrection.
If these men who lived and died before Israel’s rejection of Christ were not Christ’s before; then they are without hope unless God had before hand provided a way for them to be in Christ. And this we saw He did, and just like He did this for them He has planned for the inclusion in Christ of the future Great Tribulation remnant of Israel.
Paul even tells us that this future salvation of the nation Israel will also be the time of our resurrection in Romans 11.
I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them (Israel) jealous. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11:11, 15 NASB).
Life from the dead is resurrection. I suggest to you that there is no evidence of a pre-trib two part resurrection which there must be in order to have the Rapture at any other time then chapter 19 of Revelation, because it is only then that the dead including Tribulation saints will be in Christ. And it is the dead in Christ who will be raised before the Rapture. The only resurrection is the one taught to begin the Day of the Lord which is the first resurrection that Tribulation saints are party to. None of these passages dealt with in the last post or here today ever imply a two part first resurrection. There are two resurrections even as Daniel was shown; one to eternal life and one to eternal destruction.
So it is evident that all mankind who are in Christ will be resurrected as one bride to reign with Him where He is in Jerusalem during the millennium. Who will we reign over?– read the book.