In its proper context the word “FIRST” and the number “ONE” are to be celebrated as important in the Christian’s life. Sometimes these words are equated with selfishness and pride. However, if we look at these words from a biblical perspective we will see that these words have to do with priorities, sequence of events, new beginnings, prototypes or first-fruits, as well as rank and importance. Many times, the word “first” also indicates a trigger point for an important event to take place. This becomes very helpful to know in understanding end time prophecy, when some events cannot occur until another event has taken place first.
In this chapter I wish to talk about the word “first” when used as a trigger point. According to the dictionary a trigger point is “a particular circumstance or situation that causes an event to occur.” This is certainly true in the Bible. There are certain prophetic events in the Scriptures that cannot take place until a preceding event occurs first. This preceding event is a trigger point and causes the next event to take place. To bring a clearer understanding of what I am talking about I would like to invite you to
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 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: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
This passage is a reference to the resurrection and the rapture of the church and is a revelation given to the apostle Paul by the Word of the Lord regarding the end time of the church. The end time of the church consists of a sequence of events beginning with the Lord descending from heaven with a shout, followed by the voice of the Archangel and the trumpet of God. It is at this point that the dead in Christ shall rise and are resurrected first.
I want you to notice that this Scripture did not say that the dead in Christ – a reference to believers who have died during the church age – will be raptured first. They are going to be resurrected first and, according to this Scripture, will be on the earth in resurrection state, until we, who are alive and remain, are changed into a state of immortality together with them. Then, and only then, will the entire church, consisting of those who have been resurrected and those who have been changed, be transported, caught up or raptured together as one body to meet the Lord in the air.
The phrase “and the dead in Christ shall rise first” indicates that the resurrection of the believers who have died during the church age is a trigger point for the next prophetic event to take place. The next prophetic event is that “we which are alive and remain” must go through an experience that will cause us to be like Jesus and those who have just experienced the resurrection.
This experience is called the change in first Corinthians 15:51-53. Let’s just read the Scriptures and, please, allow me to make some comments as we read
(1 Corinthians 15:51-53)
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery (a heavenly secret revealed to the Apostle Paul) We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed, 52 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 (who are mortal) shall be changed (into immortality) 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
When we combine the two revelations that have been given to us by the apostle Paul, we must conclude that the resurrection of the dead in Christ is a trigger point for the next prophetic event to take place, in which we who are alive must be changed. This change is in a moment in the twinkling of an eye. The rapture is not in the twinkling of an eye but the change, which qualifies us for the rapture, is in the twinkling of an eye. The twinkling of an eye just simply means an indivisible unit of time – that’s how quick the changes going to be.
The Day of the Lord or the Second Coming of Jesus
There is another prophetic event in the Scriptures, called the Second Coming of Jesus, that cannot take place unless preceded by other prophetic events that must occur first. In his second letter to the church in Thessalonica, the apostle Paul was forced to set believers minds at ease because of a fraudulent letter that was circulating among the members stating that the resurrection had already occurred. There was good reason for the church in Thessalonica to believe the fraudulent letter, because the Christians were under a tremendous amount of pressure and persecution – a sure sign that they has missed the Resurrection and were now in the Tribulation Period. They would have to wait for the second coming of Jesus to save them. Let’s see from the Scriptures how that Paul corrected their thinking.
(2 Thessalonians 2.1-3) 1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.
In these Scriptures Paul is going to talk to this local Church about the second coming of Jesus and the gathering together of the church – a reference to the rapture or the catching away of the church. He goes on to say “don’t worry about anything you hear or read about the second coming of Jesus because that day cannot come, unless there is a falling away FIRST.
The phrase “falling away” is from a Greek word which means divorce, separation or departure. The proper way to translate this word in context of what Paul is writing is “the departure or the rapture of the church.”
The sum of what Paul is saying is that the second coming of Jesus cannot occur unless the rapture takes place first. It is after the rapture that the Antichrist, the man of sin, may be revealed. Once revealed, the treacherous dealings of the Antichrist with the nation of Israel will cause Jesus to return to this earth as the King of Kings and as the Lord of Lords.
When He returns, He will deal with the Antichrist and the false prophet as the Scriptures have foretold. He will save the nation of Israel from destruction, and He will set up His kingdom with those who have come from heaven after the resurrection and rapture of the church. This also explains that the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming of Jesus are two distinctly separate events. The Rapture of the Church initiates the career of the Antichrist, while the Second Coming of Jesus terminates his career.
The Rapture of the Church is the greatest revelation from heaven for the church in which the church is transported as the bride of Christ to where Jesus is located. In contrast, the second coming of Jesus is the greatest sign from heaven, when all flesh will see Jesus as He returns with His Bride in order to set up His Kingdom on earth.
Another difference between the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming is that at the Rapture Jesus meets His Bride between Heaven and Earth and transports her to where He is. At the Second Coming, Jesus will come with the Church back to this earth in order to set up His Millennial Reign.
The Word of God and especially Prophecy in the Scriptures are filled with Trigger Points. Time and space does not permit me to go into great detail and depth, but should you wish to know more about Prophecy and The End Times for the Church, the Nation of Israel and the Nations mentioned in prophecy, please contact us and request a Bible Course, called “Regarding the Resurrection and Rapture of the Church.”