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THE RAPTURE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, August 20, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“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…” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).


This is a wonderful promise in the Bible! Jesus is coming again! Every Christian heart should leap with joy when hearing those thrilling words, "Jesus is coming again"!  

At His first coming, He was put into the womb of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. He was born in a lowly manger in Bethlehem. He grew up as the adopted son of a carpenter, a trade which He Himself doubtlessly practiced until He was about thirty years old. At that time John the Baptist announced him as

“The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

And, then, Jesus began His earthly ministry, which lasted for three years. He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, in the city of Nazareth. He read aloud from the book of Isaiah,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” 
      (Luke 4:18-19).

After reading from Isaiah, Jesus sat down. Everyone in that synagogue was looking at Him.

“And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21).

They “rose up, and thrust him out of the city” (Luke 4:29). He left and began His public ministry. He cast a demon out of a man at Capernaum. He healed Peter’s mother-in-law. He healed a leper. He healed a man with a withered hand. He called twelve men to follow Him as His Disciples. He taught the people who came to hear Him preach. He healed the servant of a Roman centurion. He raised a widow’s son from the dead. He continued doing these wonderful things up and down the land of Israel. Some believed in Him as the Messiah. Others rejected Him. At last He came up to the city of Jerusalem for the great Passover celebration. He went into an upper room with His Disciples to eat the Passover meal. One of His Disciples, Judas, left the room to betray Him. Jesus and the other Disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas led the Roman soldiers to the spot in the Garden where He prayed. They arrested Him. They flogged Him. They took Him to a hill outside Jerusalem where they nailed Him to a cross.

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Then He cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). He died. They placed His dead body in a tomb and sealed it. They ordered Roman soldiers to guard His tomb.

But on the third day He arose from the dead. When He appeared to His disciples, after His resurrection,

“They were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit” (Luke 24:37).

He said to them,

“Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39).

He led them out of the city of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives. He told them to evangelize the whole world.

“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, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).

“This same Jesus” which was taken up “into heaven” is coming back. He went up! He will come down! Jesus is coming again!

Coming again, coming again;
May be morning, may be noon,
May be evening and may be soon!
Coming again, coming again;
O what a wonderful day it will be,
Jesus is coming again!
   (“Jesus is Coming Again” by John W. Peterson, 1957).

Now the Bible tells us that there are two parts to His return. We will study the second part of His return next Sunday, when He comes down to the Mount of Olives. But our text speaks of the first part of His return. Notice three things about this event from our passage of Scripture.

I. First, the Lord Jesus will descend into the atmosphere above the earth.

Notice I Thessalonians 4:16.

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout…” (I Thessalonians 4:16).

It is Christ “himself” who shall come down “from heaven.” It is not the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is not a spirit at all. It is the “same Jesus, which [was] taken up…into heaven” (Acts 1:11). This “same Jesus” will come from heaven.

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven…” 
      (I Thessalonians 4:16).

“Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39).

He is coming again, He is coming again,
The very same Jesus, Rejected of men;
He is coming again, He is coming again,
With power and great glory, He is coming again!
   (“He is Coming Again” by Mabel Johnston Camp, 1913).

Perhaps you remember what Jesus said in John 14:3. He said,

“I will come again” (John 14:3).

I also want you to notice that He does not come to the earth here in our text. His return to the earth is an entirely separate event, which occurs later, and is spoken of in Revelation 19:11-16; Matthew 24:27-31; Zechariah 14:4-5, etc. But I want you to notice that He does not come back to earth in our text. Look at verse 17. Stand and read it.

“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air…” 
      (I Thessalonians 4:17).

You may be seated.

Christ comes in the air at the “rapture.” He comes to the earth later. It is clear from a literal reading of the Bible that these are two separate events. The Lord Jesus will descend from Heaven, but will stop above the earth, “in the air.” There is no air in space, so this shows that He will stop after He has entered the atmosphere above the earth.

II. Second, the dead in Christ will rise.

Let’s stand and read verse 16 again, out loud.

“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…”
     (I Thessalonians 4:16).

You may be seated. “The dead in Christ shall rise first.” Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

He will descend from heaven “with a shout.” That is the voice of command. It is the same voice which He used when He stood at the tomb of Lazarus and said, “Lazarus, come forth” (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D,. Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume V, p. 398).

The Bible tells us that Jesus came to the tomb of Lazarus and said,

“Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days” (John 11:39).

But they obeyed Jesus and took the stone away from the door to Lazarus’ tomb. And Jesus,

cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth” (John 11:43-44).

That is exactly what Christ will do at the rapture. He will shout with a loud command, with a voice like an archangel, a voice like a trumpet (McGee, ibid.). And when Christ cries out, like He did at the tomb of Lazarus, those who are “dead in Christ shall rise first.” The dead bodies of true Christians will come out of their graves and rise to meet Christ in the air.

When I was attending a very liberal Southern Baptist seminary in the early 1970s, those liberal professors said that there is no mention of this resurrection in the Old Testament. But they were wrong. There is a very clear mention of this resurrection in the Old Testament book of Isaiah, 26:19, which says,

“Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isaiah 26:19).

That is a clear Old Testament prophecy of the rapture, which begins when “the dead in Christ…rise first” (I Thessalonians 4:16).

“Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise…and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isaiah 26:19).

That Old Testament prophecy will happen when Jesus “descends from heaven with a shout.”

The book of Job is the oldest book of the Old Testament. Job said the same thing:

“And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins [my heart] be consumed within me” (Job 19:26-27).

This was also foretold by the Apostle Paul when he said,

“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…” (I Corinthians 15:52).

Our text says,

“The dead in Christ shall rise first” (I Thessalonians 4:16).

Now, you may ask how bodies that have been dead a long time, bodies of true believers that have been dead over 3,520 years in Job’s case, could rise. How can that happen? The Apostle Paul calls it “a mystery” in I Corinthians 15:51, a “musterion” in the original Greek, something our human minds cannot fully understand. To be quite frank, it is a miracle. You do believe in God, don’t you? Well, we are told from one end of the Bible to the other that God performs miracles. And this is one of God’s greatest miracles,

“The dead in Christ shall rise first” (I Thessalonians 4:16).

We don’t understand it all rationally, but it is true nonetheless.

“The dead in Christ [the dead Christians] shall rise first”
     (I Thessalonians 4:16).

III. Third, the living Christians will be caught up with them.

Look at verse 17. Please stand and read it aloud.

“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air…” (I Thessalonians 4:17).

You may be seated. Those true Christians who are living on the earth at that time will be “caught up” with the dead Christians “to meet the Lord in the air.” First, the dead Christians will be “caught up,” and then, second, true Christians who are alive will be “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air. All of this will take place

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (I Corinthians 15:52).

It will all happen just as quick as you can wink your eye! The dead Christians and then the living Christians, will be “caught up together…to meet the Lord in the air.” What a wonderful hope! What a marvelous promise in the Bible!

Oh, joy! Oh, delight! should we go without dying,
No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying.
Caught up thro’ the clouds with our Lord into glory,
When Jesus receives “His own.”
O Lord Jesus, how long, how long,
‘Ere we shout the glad song,
Christ returneth! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Amen. Hallelujah! Amen.
   (“Christ Returneth” by H. L. Turner, 19th century).

Dr. McGee said, “caught up” is translated from the Greek word “harpaz?,” meaning “to grasp up hastily, snatch up, to lift, or rapture” (ibid., p. 399). Then Dr. McGee said,

It is going to be a very orderly procedure. The dead will rise first…Then there will be the apostles and all those millions who have laid down their lives for years. They will just keep [being caught up] from right down through the centuries. Finally, if we are alive at the time, we will bring up the rear of the parade. We will be way down at the tail end of it [because most Christians have] already gone…through the doorway of death (ibid.).

What a glorious, wonderful comfort this is! The bodies of the dead [Christians] will be lifted out. Then whoever is alive at that time will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. So shall we ever be with the Lord. In fact, we shall come back with Him to the earth to reign with Him at the time when He sets up His kingdom (ibid.).

A wonderful future awaits every true Christian when Christ returns in the air to receive us into Heaven!

May I ask you, are you ready for that to happen? Are you prepared? Only those who are saved now will be raptured to meet the Lord in the air then. Are you saved? Jesus died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He arose from the dead and took His Blood into Heaven to cleanse, to wash away, all of your sins. But you must yield to Christ, and trust Him alone to be saved. If you come to Christ in simple faith, He will wash away your every sin with His precious Blood, and you will be saved, ready to

“be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thessalonians 4:17).

Then you can sing with us,

Coming again, coming again;
May be morning, may be noon,
May be evening and may be soon!
Coming again, coming again;
O what a wonderful day it will be,
Jesus is coming again!
   (“Jesus is Coming Again” by John W. Peterson, 1957).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: I Corinthians 15:51-54.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Jesus is Coming Again” (by John W. Peterson, 1957).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE RAPTURE

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


“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…” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).

(John 1:29; Luke 4:18-19,21,29; 23:34,46; 24:37,39; Acts 1:9-11)

I.   First, the Lord Jesus will descend into the atmosphere above the earth,
I Thessalonians 4:16a; Acts 1:11; Luke 24:39; John 14:3;
cf. Revelation 19:11-16; cf. Matthew 24:27-31; cf. Zechariah 14:4-5;
I Thessalonians 4:17.

II.  Second, the dead in Christ will rise, I Thessalonians 4:16b;
John 11:39, 43-44; Isaiah 26:19; I Corinthians 15:52, 51.

III. Third, the living Christians will be caught up with them,
I Thessalonians 4:17; I Corinthians 15:52.