The Rapture of the Church: The Rapture in John 14:1-3 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 Lesson # 4
John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (ESV)
In this passage, the Lord says that He will “receive us to Himself.” (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1).
John Walvoord writes “The revelation given in John 14 is to the point that the departure of Christ from earth to heaven is required in order to prepare a place for them in the Father’s house, used here as an expression equivalent to heaven. The promise to come again is connected with the return of Christ to heaven with the disciples. Christ is promising to take His disciples to the Father’s house when He comes again. It should be carefully determined just what takes place at the time of the event here described: Christ returns to the earthly scene to take the disciples from earth to heaven. This is in absolute contrast to what takes place when Christ returns to establish His kingdom on earth. On that occasion, no one goes from earth to heaven. The saints in the millennial kingdom are on earth with Christ. The only interpretation that fits the statements of John 14 is to refer it to the time of the translation of the church. Then, indeed, the disciples will go from earth to heaven, to the place prepared in the Father’s house. The idea of going to the Father’s house in heaven was quite foreign to the thinking of the disciples. Their hope was that Christ would immediately establish His kingdom on earth and that they would remain in the earthly sphere to reign with Him. The thought of going to heaven first was a new revelation and one that apparently was not comprehended. In Acts 1:6 they were still asking about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. In making the pronouncement in John 14, Christ held before His disciples an entirely different hope than that which was promised to Israel as a nation. It is the hope of the church in contrast to the hope of the Jewish nation. The hope of the church is to be taken to heaven; the hope of Israel is Christ returning to reign over the earth. The passage so clearly teaches that the disciples will go from earth to heaven that those who deny the pretribulation translation of the church are forced to spiritualize this passage and make the expression “I will come back” a coming of Christ for each Christian at the time of his death. Marcus Dods stated, ‘The promise is fulfilled in the death of the Christian, and it has changed the aspect of death.’ It is certainly desperate exegesis to dream up not only a spiritualization of the term “I will come back” but to postulate a personal coming of Christ at the death of each saint, a teaching that is never found explicitly in the Scriptures. Dods himself admitted this is strange doctrine when he added, ‘The personal second coming of Christ is not a frequent theme in this Gospel.’ The peculiar point of view of Gundry, who makes ‘the Father’s house’ the body of believers with reference to the indwelling of Christ, will be considered under the posttribulational arguments. The point is that a coming of Christ to individuals at death is not found in John’s Gospel at all, nor in any other Scripture. Here again is an illustration of the fact that spiritualization of Scripture goes hand in hand with denial of the pretribulation Rapture. Certainly the hope set before the disciples cannot be reduced to the formula ‘When you die you will go to heaven.’ This would not have been new truth. Rather, Christ is promising that when He comes He would take them to heaven where they would be forever with Him, without reference to death. The ultimate objective of the return of Christ is that the disciples may be with Christ forever, ‘that you also may be where I am.’ It is true that saints who die are immediately taken to heaven as far as their immaterial nature is concerned. In Scripture, however, the hope of being with Christ is connected with the translation of the church as if the intermediate state is not a full realization of what it means to be with Christ. Hence in 1 Thessalonians both the living and the resurrected dead ‘will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever’” (1 Thess. 4:17-18). It is true, however, that the intermediate state is described as being ‘with Christ’ (Phil. 1:23) and as being ‘at home with the Lord’ (2 Cor. 5:8). Nevertheless, the full expression of fellowship with Christ and being with Him wherever He goes is conditioned on the resurrection of the body for the dead in Christ and the translation of the living saints.”
As we noted, the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 teaches on the rapture or resurrection of the church and describes it as “a mystery,” which we noted means that this prophecy was unknown to the Old Testament prophets of Israel but rather is new revelation given by the Lord to His apostles by the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 15:50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (ESV)
This passage teaches that not all church age believers will die physically but that those alive at the rapture will be “changed” meaning that they will receive a resurrection body which will be incorruptible.
This passage also teaches that the dead in Christ will be raised first before those alive on the earth which corresponds with Paul’s teaching on the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
It also teaches that the rapture will happen in a “winking of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52).
The resurrection of the church will occur “in a moment.”
Some expositors have tried to associate the “trumpet of God” in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and the “last trumpet” in 1 Corinthians 15:52 with the last or seventh trumpet of the Tribulation and with the trumpet of Matthew 24:31.
By doing this, they attempt to put the rapture either in the Tribulation or at its end, when the Lord returns to earth.
In both of these passages, this trumpet is followed by the resurrection of the church, i.e. the rapture.
There are obvious differences that exist between the “trumpet of God” in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and the “last trumpet” in 1 Corinthians 15:52 and the last or seventh trumpet of the Tribulation in Revelation 8:7f. and with the “great trumpet” of Matthew 24:31.
The trumpet in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:22 should not be equated with Joel 2:1 or with Revelation 8:7f since there are many differences between them.
In 1 Corinthians 15:22 the trumpeter is not stated whereas the trumpet in Matthew 24:31 and the trumpets of Revelation 8 are blown by angels.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 the trumpeter is Christ whereas the trumpeter in Joel is a human being, an Israelite.
The purpose of the “great trumpet” in Matthew 24:31 is to have the elect angels gather the living elect on the earth whereas the purpose of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is to gather the living church age believers.
With the blowing of the trumpet in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Christ Himself and not the elect angels gather living church age believers to Himself whereas in Revelation the purpose of the blowing of the trumpet by angels to execute judgment during the last three and a half years of Daniel’s Seventieth Week.
The purpose of the trumpet in Joel 2:1 to assemble Israel and warn them against danger.
The trumpet in Joel is an alarm to the nation of Israel that signals that the day of the Lord has begun.
In Joel 2, the armies of Israel and her people are being warned of an impending attack.
The result of the blowing of the “great trumpet” in Matthew 24:31 results in entrance into the kingdom or millennial kingdom of Christ whereas the result of the blowing of the trumpet in 1 Corinthians 15:52 is the resurrection of church age believers.
The result of the blowing of the trumpet of God in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 is also the resurrection of church age believers whereas the result of the blowing of the trumpets by elect angels in Revelation 8 is the execution of judgments during the last three and a half years of Daniel’s Seventieth Week.
The result of the blowing of the trumpet in Joel 2 is war and an invasion from an enemy.
Therefore, because of these obvious differences between these trumpets, the trumpets of Revelation 8 and the “great trumpet” in Matthew 24:31 and the trumpet of Joel 2:1 do not take place at the same time as the trumpets mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
The “last trumpet” of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is thought by some expositors of the Bible to be associated with the trumpet judgments that appear in Revelation 8.
Consequently, they place the rapture at the end of the Tribulation period, i.e. Daniel’s Seventieth Week.
However, a comparison of the differences between the various trumpets mentioned in Revelation 8, Joel 2:1, Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16, indicates quite clearly that the “last trumpet” in 1 Corinthians 15:52 is the very voice of the Lord Jesus Christ calling out the church in resurrection.
The “last trumpet” of 1 Corinthians 15:52 and the “trumpet of God” in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 both result in the resurrection of the church and the purpose of both are to gather the church to Christ and they are not blown by elect angels.
Whereas, the trumpet judgments of Revelation 8 and the “great trumpet” in Matthew 24:31 are blown by elect angels and the result of the former is the execution of judgments during the Tribulation whereas the result of the latter is entrance into Christ’s millennial kingdom.
 Walvoord, John F.. The Rapture Question (pp. 71-73). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.