Life-Study of 1 & 2 Thessaloniansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In 4:13-18 Paul gives an elementary word concerning the Lord’s coming and the rapture of the believers. Here, as a word of comfort, the rapture of believers at the Lord’s coming is mentioned in a general way. Concerning this matter, details are revealed in other books of the New Testament, such as Matthew and Revelation.
What Paul describes in 4:13-18 is the general hope of all believers. This is the hope of a holy life for the church life. This kind of life is neither sinful nor worldly. On the contrary, it is pure and holy. Furthermore, this holy life for the church life has a hope.
Because of man’s fall there is no hope for the fallen human race. The only expectation unbelievers have is death. Death is their destination. Day by day, they are living with a view toward their death, and they are on the way to death. Thus, death is their future.
In Ephesians 2:12 Paul describes the hopeless situation of unbelievers: “You were at that time apart from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Unbelievers have no hope because they do not have God. Because they are apart from Christ and their living is without God, they do not have any hope. The only thing that awaits them is death. Everyone realizes this and takes it for granted. For this reason, unbelievers do not like to think about their future. Actually, they do not have a positive future. In their future looms the darkness of death.
As those who believe in Christ, we have a life full of hope. Our hope is the Lord’s coming back. Furthermore, our hope includes resurrection and rapture. Resurrection is not only a matter of life, but a matter of life overcoming death. When life overcomes death, that is resurrection. Rapture is something that goes even beyond resurrection. A person may be resurrected and yet not be raptured.
The holy life for the church life is a life with a future, a life with hope. This hope is not merely the Lord’s coming; it is the Lord’s coming with resurrection and rapture. The coming back of the Lord Jesus will cause the resurrection and the rapture to occur. As we have just pointed out, resurrection and rapture are both in addition to life. Today life is our possession. We have life, we are in life, and we are enjoying life. However, we are awaiting the Lord’s coming, and His coming will bring resurrection and rapture.
Resurrection, of course, is for those who have died. Today we are living a holy life for the church. If the Lord delays His coming back, we all shall eventually “sleep,” that is, die physically. All the believers who have died are waiting for resurrection. If we live until the coming back of the Lord Jesus, we shall not need resurrection. However, we shall still need rapture. Furthermore, those who have died will need to be resurrected and raptured as well. All believers, the dead as well as the living, need rapture. Rapture, therefore, is actually the end of our life on earth. This means that the conclusion of our life is neither death nor resurrection—it is rapture.
In the Scriptures there is not such a word as rapture, but the thought of rapture is there. As used by Christian teachers, the word rapture means to be taken away, as what happened to Enoch and Elijah (Gen. 5:24; 2 Kings 2:1, 11). Matthew 24:40-41; Luke 17:34-36; 21:36; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 3:10; 7:9; 11:12; 12:5; 14:1, 16; 15:2 all refer to rapture, to the taking up of the believers to the heavens.
In the New Testament the rapture is an important subject. In 4:13-18 Paul speaks of it only in a general, elementary way. He tells us that the living, together with those believers who have died and have been resurrected, will be caught up to a meeting of the Lord in the air. In these verses Paul does not go further to explain the details. What he says here can be compared to an elementary school teacher giving his students some basic principles of mathematics. Actually, the rapture is not a simple matter. For this reason, there has been much debate among Bible teachers concerning it.
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