Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul which was written unto the saints which were at Thessalonica. More specifically, today’s reading begins with the thirteenth verse of the fourth chapter and continues through to the eleventh verse of the fifth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture within the epistle, the first thing you will notice is that it actually overlaps two different chapters. As you begin reading the language that is contained within this particular set of verses you will notice and discover that the apostle Paul seems to build upon a reality which he had previously written unto the saints which were at Corinth. The words, the text and the language that is found and contained within this passage deal specifically with the reality and concept of the rapture of the church of Jesus Christ—that entity and that body of members which exist within upon the earth. Perhaps one of the most interesting and incredible realities surrounding the church of Jesus Christ is that it has spanned nearly two thousand years since the day of Pentecost took place fifty days after the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross. When speaking of the church and the tru body of Christ it is necessary that we recognize and understand that there is a vast number of saints and followers of the way which presently walk the face of this earth within and throughout all the countries of the world. With that being said, it’s important to note and recognize that the bodies of innumerable saints are presently lying buried in the ground, or in caves, or in tombs within and throughout the world. What’s more, is that the church right now is essentially only part of the whole, for there is a part of the church that exists within and upon the earth, while there is another part of the earth that exists in heaven with the head of the Church who is Jesus Christ. There is a great number of saints while we will never meet who are a part of the church and who are still present and awake upon the face of the earth.
What I absolutely love about the language and text we find in this particular passage of scripture is that the words which are contained therein were written to a people who were waiting for the coming and appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. Earlier on in the epistle you will find the apostle writing concerning the saints within the city of Thessalonica that they were indeed waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. What is imperative to recognize and understand is that the last days began on the day of Pentecost and those who existed within and upon the earth during those times believed that Jesus Christ could have come at any point in time. Much like those in the Old Testament and those who were under the Old covenant were looking for and awaiting the coming of the Messiah, so too those in the generations beginning with the day of Pentecost were living with a similar hope and expectation. While those were living under the old dispensation of grace were looking for and expecting the first coming and appearing of the messiah, those who are living under the new dispensation of grace are looking for the second coming of the messiah. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand concerning the second coming of the Messiah it’s that only those who believe that the messiah has already come in the flesh can in fact hope for and expect the messiah to return and come again. In fact, if you read the conclusions of certain of the gospels you will find that the angels who appeared when Jesus was being caught up to heaven to return to His Father not only asked those who stood gazing intently into the sky why they were doing so, but they also declared unto them that just as Jesus was ascended before their eyes on that day, so also would He return in like manner. Even in Jesus’ ascension we find a prophetic statement concerning His imminent return. It is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand this reality, for there is a deep mystery and prophetic truth that is contained within this reality. We dare not miss or lose sight of this reality, for to do so would be to miss an incredibly important truth the Spirit would speak unto the church—both the church that existed in that generation, as well as the church which has existed within and throughout the generations since then.
IN order to truly and properly understand this reality and concept of the imminent return and second coming of Jesus Christ it is absolutely necessary to turn our attention—both to the final few verses found within the New Testament gospel of Luke, as well as those within the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts. Both of these New Testament books you will recall and note were written by the beloved physical Luke to a most excellent Theophilus. Consider if you will the words and language that is found in the final chapter of the New Testament gospel according to Luke beginning with the fiftieth verse: “And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen “ (Luke 24:50-53). In the final four verses of the New Testament gospel of Luke we encounter the reality of Jesus Christ being taken up unto His Father who was in heaven and being removed and separated from them—albeit only for a season. When the New Testament gospel of Luke ends and concludes it does so with Luke writing how immediately after Jesus ascended unto the right hand of His Father who was in heaven, those who were present on that day worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. What’s more, is that they were continually in the Temple praising and blessing God. What makes this reality all the more interesting and intriguing is when you move forward just two books within the New Testament to the second installment of Luke’s writing to Theophilus, and what is essentially a continuation of that which was previously written in the gospel of Luke. Whereas the gospel of Luke was written to describe the events surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, the New Testament book of Acts was written to describe the events surrounding the life and ministry of the body of Jesus Christ within and upon the earth. Consider if you will the words and language that is found in the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the first verse of the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts:
“The former treaties have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after that He through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom He had chosen: to whom also He shewed Himself alive after His passion by man infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel? And He said unto them, It is not for you to know the times of the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, w high is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were comer in, they went up into an upper room” (Acts 1:1-13).
It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we carefully consider and examine the texts in both the first treatise which concerned all that Jesus began to do and teach, as well as the second treatise which concerned all that Jesus’ physical body did also teach and do within the earth. In all reality, that which we find and that which we read in the New Testament book of Acts is in fact a continuation of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, and a continuation of that which He began to do and teach while He walked within and upon the earth. What we find and what we read in the New Testament book of Acts is essentially a powerful treatise and dissertation concerning the physical body of Christ which remained within and upon the earth—despite the fact that the physical and spiritual head had returned unto His Father who was in heaven, and was now set down at the right hand of all authority, dominion and power. With that being said, I am wonderfully and powerfully convinced that there is contained within the ascension of Jesus the Christ a powerful mystery and prophetic truth that is directly connected to that which the apostle Paul wrote—both unto the saints which were at Corinth, as well as unto the saints which were at Thessalonica. What’s more, is that with that being said, I am convinced there is still yet another mystery and prophetic truth that is directly connected to that which was written in these two epistles—a reality that is found and written in the New Testament gospel according to Matthew. In fact, if you begin reading with and from the fiftieth verse of the twenty-seventh chapter of Matthew’s gospel you will find the following words which described the death of Jesus and the events which took place as a direct result of His death. Consider if you will the words and language that is found in this particular passage of Scripture beginning with the fiftieth verse of this particular chapter: “Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain form the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:50-53).
It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we play close attention to that which is found and contained within these three passages—that passage which is found within the gospel of Matthew, that passage which is found in the gospel of Luke, and that passage which is found in the book of Acts. It is when we read these three passages that we encounter two distinct mysteries and prophetic truths which directly point to the imminent second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am wonderfully and powerfully convinced that there exists within Jesus’ death, as well as within His ascension a powerful prophetic mystery which directly applies to the body of Christ. Just as surely as Jesus’ physical resurrection from the grave has direct implications on the resurrection of the saints—both a spiritual resurrection which will take place in the here and now, as well as a physical resurrection which will take place when the last trump, which is the trump of God shall sound. I firmly believe that there is something that is unlocked when reading the account of Jesus’ death, as well as Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, for these three events are not only directly linked and connected to each other, but also have direct implications within and upon our lives as the true body of Christ and church of Jesus Christ which exists within and upon the earth. Before we delve into this, I feel it absolutely necessary to present you once more with the words and language which the apostle Paul wrote in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle which he wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth. If you read the fifteenth chapter of this first epistle which was written unto the Corinthian congregation you will undoubtedly notice that it is entirely centered upon the reality and concept of resurrection—both the resurrection of Jesus who is the Christ and Lord, as well as the resurrection of the saints of God. In verses one through ten of this particular passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul beginning with the resurrection of Jesus Christ and setting forth the groundwork and foundation that Christ did in fact rise from the dead. What’s more, is that not only did Christ rise from the dead, but He also showed Himself alive unto as many as five hundred at one time in addition to showing Himself alive unto certain women, as well as the disciples, and the two road who were walking along the road to Emaus. Consider if you will the words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning with the first verse:
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that HE rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, He was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of all the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with. Me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed” (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).
When you read this particular passage of Scripture it is important that we recognize how necessary and important it was for the apostle Paul to begin a discussion on the resurrection of the saints of God with the physical resurrection of Jesus the Christ, for there can be no resurrection of the saints without and apart form the physical resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus were not risen from the dead, and if Jesus had not risen from the grave—not only would our faith be in vain, but there would also be no hope for us in and after death. In fact, if you continue reading this particular chapter you will find the apostle Paul writing these exact words, for the apostle Paul recognized that without and apart from the physical and natural resurrection fo Jesus Christ there could be no spiritual resurrection while we wait for the resurrection at the end of the ages. Consider if you will the words and language which is found in this same chapter beginning with the twelfth verse:
“Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection fo the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since Bey man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at His coming. Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For He hath put all things under His feet. But when He saith, all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I Protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts of Ephesus, what advangageth it me, if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. Be not delivered: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:12-34).
Within this particular passage of Scripture the apostle Paul clearly sets forth that Christ’s physical resurrection stands and serves as the firstfruits of the resurrection of the dead which will occur when Jesus Christ returns and comes again in the same manner in which He left. The apostle Paul sought to clearly set forth the reality that not only did Jesus Christ indeed rise from the dead, but the resurrection of Christ from the dead stands as the firstfruits and the center of the resurrection which we shall experience. The entire fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written unto the saints which were at Corinth was centered upon the reality that Jesus did in fact rise from the grave, and that the Spirit which was in Him did in fact raise Him from death to life. It is precisely because Jesus the Christ rose from death to life and emerged from the grave that we who are found to be in Christ can also rise again. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize that while it is true there is a resurrection that can and will take place when the last trump shall sound, there is a resurrection which can and shall be experienced in the here and the now. I am firmly convinced that while we await that moment which will come in the twinkling of an eye—that moment when we will be caught up together with Christ when He returns in the same manner in which He ascended—we are to live in this present moment and in this present reality resurrecting on an continual and daily basis. I have previously written that while we wait to be resurrected we are to resurrect and continually experience the power of resurrection within our daily lives. What’s more, is that I am convinced that while we are waiting to be changed in that moment in the twinkling of an eye we are to daily and continually be changed. Furthermore, while we are waiting to be transformed in that single moment we are to continually and daily be transformed each and every day within and throughout the course of our lives. RESURRECT WHILE YOU’RE WAITING TO BE RESURRECTED! CHANGE WHILE YOU’RE WAITING TO BE CHANGED! TRANSFORM WHILE YOU’RE WAITING TO BE TRANSFORMED! There is a resurrection which we shall indeed experience in that moment, in the twinkling of an eye when trumpet shall sound, and we shall not only be changed, but also transformed. In fact, consider if you will the words and language that is found in this same chapter within the first epistle which was written unto the Corinthian saints:
“But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest, tho I sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed His own body. All flesh is not the same flesH: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and northern glory of the stars: for one star different from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raise in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. 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 immorality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy string? O grave, where is thy victory? The string of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast unloveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:35-58).
The reason why I chose to include virtually the entire chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth is to stand and serve as the foundation for the mystery which is found—not only in Christ’s death upon the cross, but also in His resurrection from the dead, as well as His ascension forty days after His death and burial in a borrowed tomb. If you turn your attention to the twenty-seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find that when Christ gave up the ghost and yielded His spirit into the hands of the father, there was a great earthquake which struck the earth, and as a result, the tombs and graves of many of the saints were opened. What’s important to note within this passage of Scripture is that when Jesus died upon the cross the graves of many of the saints were opened, but those saints which slept remained in the grave. It wouldn’t be until Jesus’ own resurrection from the grave that the bodies of those saints whose graves had already been opened that their bodies would rise and emerge from the tomb, and they would enter into the holy city of Jerusalem and walk among men once more. We dare not miss or lose sight of this reality, for when speaking of Jesus’ death upon the cross it is absolutely imperative and necessary that we understand that His death is what unlocks and opens the graves of His saints. In all reality, I am convinced that it wasn’t merely the graves of those saints which slept at that time which were opened, but I am also convinced that in a spiritual and eternal sense the graves of the countless saints which have slept throughout the ages since then have also been opened. While it is true that there are countless saints which have slept as their physical bodies remained buried in a tomb, or a grave, or a mausoleum, I am convinced that each and every grave of one of the saints of God is opened—even though their physical bodies lie buried in the tomb and the grave. Through Jesus’ death upon the cross that which was necessary to unlock the physical graves of the saints of God took place, and the graves were opened for that moment when those within them who slept could emerge triumphant and victorious. We must recognize and understand this reality, for it through the death of Jesus that the graves of the saints are unlocked, however, it is through Jesus’ resurrection from grave that the bodies of those which slept can in fact emerge from the grave.
If you study this particular passage of Scripture you will find that while the graves of many of the saints which slept were opened when Jesus yielded up the ghost and died upon the cross, the bodies of those saints would not emerge from those graves and enter into the city until Jesus Himself resurrected from the dead. This lends to the very reality which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth, for the apostle Paul wrote unto these saints that Jesus was indeed and was in fact the firstfruits of the resurrection of the dead. In other words, Jesus had to die upon the cross in order that the graves of the saints of God could be unlocked and opened, but He had to raise from the dead Himself in order that the bodies of the saints which slept could emerge from those graves. It was Jesus’ death upon the cross that would unlock and open the graves, but it would be His own resurrection that would allow the freedom and liberty to those which slept to emerge and come forth from their graves. Consider that at one point for forty days there was such a powerful company of resurrected ones which were present within and upon the earth, for not only had Jesus Himself risen from the dead, but so also had all those saints whose graves had been opened risen from the dead. What’s more, is that there was also the man Lazarus whose own grave was opened when the stone was rolled away and removed, who was part of this company of resurrected ones. I absolutely love the fact that for a period of forty days the earth had the wonderful and powerful testimony of resurrected ones which walked upon the face of it after Jesus Himself had not only died, but had also been raised from death to life after He Himself had been buried in a borrowed tomb. With that being said, I find it absolutely necessary to also bring you face to face with the reality of Jesus’ ascension, for I can’t help but wonder if certain of those which were present at His ascension were those whose graves were opened, and those who emerged from the grave. It was through Jesus’ death that the graves of the saints could be opened, it was through Jesus’ resurrection that resurrection could actually occur and take place, and it was through Jesus’ ascension that what we read about concerning the rapture of the church and saints of God could also take place. What we witness through Jesus’ ascension is a powerful statement and prophetic mystery concerning that reality which we shall experience in that moment in the twinkling of an eye when the last trumpet shall sound.
When we read the account of Jesus’ ascension unto the right hand of the Father we must not understand it as being only related to Him and that which He Himself experiences, but also that which we ourselves shall experience. Jesus’ ascension unto the right hand of the Father forty days after His death upon the cross is that reality which guarantees that we as the saints of God can and will also be caught up together with Christ. On that day Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father alone, however, there is coming a day when Christ will return the same way He ascended, with the exception that when He returns and ascends to the right hand of the Father this second time, He will not return alone. I can almost here Jesus declaring unto the Father when He returned unto Him that first time that the next time He returned unto Him He would be accompanied by and would bring more with Him. NEXT TIME I COME, I WILL BRING MORE WITH ME! We must recognize and understand that it is Jesus’ death that unlocks the graves and makes possible the exit of the saints of God, and it is Jesus’ own resurrection which gives us the power to emerge from those graves fully alive, fully changed, fully transformed, fully triumphant, and fully victorious over death, hell and the grave. Let us recognize and understand that it is only through Jesus’ triumph and victory over death, hell and the grave that we ourselves can experience that very same reality within our own lives. With that being said it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize that it was precisely because Jesus ascended and returned to the right hand of the Father in heaven and in glory that we too can and will ascend with Him in that moment in the twinkling of an eye. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul now writes unto the saints which were at Thessalonica in the fourth chapter of this first epistle: “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 Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, 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 God: and the dead in Christ 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Jesus died so that death could be turned back and so our graves could in fact be opened; Jesus was raised from death to life in order that death might not have any authority or dominion over us, and in order that we ourselves might rise from death to life; Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father in order that we might every be with Him and with His Father in the company and presence of all the holy angels and those saints which have gone before. Jesus’ ascension is the guarantee that we shall be with Him, for it is only through and because of His ascension that we can have the hope and confidence that we can ever be with Him. DEATH GUARANTEES OPENING! RESURRECTION GUARANTEES EXIT! ASCENSION GUARANTEES PRESENCE! ASCENSION GUARANTEES FELLOWSHIP! ASCENSION GUARANTEES COMMUNION! ASCENSION GUARANTEES DWELLING WITH THE MOST HIGH GOD IN ALL HIS GLORY!