1 Corinthians 15:50 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13: Preterism, the Rapture and the Resurrection
Preterism, the Rapture and the Resurrection: Summary and Highlights
Do 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 predict a resurrection, rapture or both? At the start of the Jewish War, two Roman historians record what appears to be a multitude of the dead rising out of the earth at the sound of a trumpet in what looks like a literal resurrection of the dead in the first century. Is there any historical evidence of a rapture of the saints as well? In the following commentary, historical evidence and testimony from near-death experiences (NDE’s) are combined providing a compelling case that 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 have literally been fulfilled! Before reading the following commentary, I recommend reading The Notion that the Resurrection is an Earthly Phenomenon whereby the Dead are raised as Perfected, Eternal Earthly Bodies is dispelled by 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 and Isaiah 65:20, How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Mirror Jesus’ Resurrection Body after His Ascension Into Heaven Fulfilling Philippians 3:20-21 and ALL Other Bible Verses on the Resurrection!!!, and Understanding the Garden of Eden and the Fall from an Old Earth Perspective. The above links discuss how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall and how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the saints is a resurrection of perfected heavenly bodies. The following commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 will discuss the compelling historical, Biblical and NDE evidence that the resurrection was a past event and that the saints are now resurrected into heaven immediately after death.
The following may seem unbelievable. However, all information is taken from unbiased historical sources and is easily verifiable. Sources are also listed at the bottom of the page.
1 Corinthians 15:50 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13: Preterism, the Rapture and the Resurrection
Preterism and the Rapture: Was there a Literal Rapture in A.D. 70?
A growing number of Preterist Christians believe in a literal rapture at the time of the resurrection in A.D. 70. These Preterists believe that first century Christians who were alive during the resurrection were immediately transformed into their resurrection bodies as they ascended into heaven in A.D. 70. Because the resurrection body is a heavenly body, the rapture would have been invisible and for this reason is not found in the historical record. These Preterists believe that a rapture of all first century Christian saints helps explains why the church today is still awaiting the second coming since, if this is true, there would have been no Christians left on planet earth to testify to future generations of the coming of Christ on the clouds of heaven. Was there a literal rapture in A.D. 70?
Preterism and the Resurrection: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 were historically interpreted to refer to the Resurrection.
Though it is possible that a literal rapture could have occurred in A.D. 70, I believe that 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 are best understood in the traditional way–as descriptions of the resurrection, not rapture.1 The rapture is a relatively new Christian doctrine made popular especially in American evangelical circles. Most Christians living in a culture where the rapture is deeply engraved in church teaching might see these verses as irrefutable proof of this doctrine. However, for almost two thousand years most Christians understood that these verses referred to the resurrection of the dead. How could this be? Before answering this question, let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 15:50-54:
50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
Despite being less than two hundred years old, the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture has grown in popularity so quickly that many modern Christians assume its validity almost axiomatically. Part of the reason this teaching has spread so quickly is because of an excerpt from another one of Paul’s letters. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul writes:
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Preterist Theology and the Resurrection: Before the Crucifixion of Christ, Old Covenant Saints had No Sacrifice for Sin to purge Them from the Curse of Spiritual Death, Separation from God. After Biological Death, These Saints were confined in Separation from God in Sheol, the Afterlife Realm of Spiritual Death, to await the Resurrection.
The Bible indicates that before the resurrection, both the righteous and wicked were consigned to Sheol (Genesis 37:35) or Hades. Hades is the Greek translation of Sheol. So what is Sheol and Hades? Before Jesus died for the remission of sins; past, present and future; the Old Covenant saints had no sacrifice for sin to purge them from the curse of spiritual death. Spiritual death is separation from God. Thus these saints were confined to Sheol, the underworld of spiritual death, after biological death. Sheol is spiritual death because it is continued separation from God in heaven after physical death. Sheol is synonymous with death in the Bible and is often simply translated “death” in English translations of the Bible. According to the Bible it is in Sheol that the departed await the resurrection. Sheol appears to be a realm of darkness that is often described as a pit (Ezekiel 32:21-23). It may also be called “outer darkness” by Jesus in the New Testament (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). It is in this realm of spiritual death that the dead are temporarily separated from God prior to the resurrection.
Preterist Eschatology and the Resurrection: 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:52 use the Words Sleep and Asleep to describe the Dead before the Resurrection.
What was death or Sheol like prior to the resurrection? 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 use the words sleep and asleep to describe the dead. Do the dead truly sleep before the resurrection? The Book of Daniel closes with the words: “You [Daniel] will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance (Daniel 12:13).” The Bible often implies that the dead sleep (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Isaiah 38:18; Psalms 13:3; 6:5; Matthew 9:24), though there are also verses in the Bible that imply that the departed are conscious before the resurrection (1 Samuel 28:10-19, Ezekiel 32:21, Matthew 17:3, Luke 16:19-31, 1 Peter 3:18-20, Revelation 6:9-10). Ezekiel 32:21 reads, “From within the realm of the dead the mighty leaders will say of Egypt and her allies, ‘They have come down and they lie with the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword.’” Another verse implying that the dead are conscious is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In this parable the rich man dies and is sent to Hades. While in Hades, the rich man calls out to Abraham to send Lazarus to his family to warn them so that they will not also end up in this place of torment (Luke 16:19-31). It should be noted that Ezekiel 32:21 may just be a poetic, anthropomorphic depiction of death rather than being clear evidence of a conscious afterlife prior to the resurrection. And the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is, of course, a parable which is a symbolic story. However, if the all the dead both righteous and wicked truly sleep prior to the resurrection, how is the rich man in torment in Hades in any way whether literally or symbolically if he is asleep or not conscious at that time? Furthermore, if the dead truly and literally sleep, how did Jesus preach to the spirits in Hades as indicated in 1 Peter 3:18-20? Additional evidence that the dead are in some way conscious prior to the resurrection is the fact that the ghost of Samuel is said to have appeared to Saul during a séance (1 Samuel 28:10-19) and Moses and Elijah seem to have appeared beside Jesus in a vision during the transfiguration (Matthew 17:3). Ultimately the Bible is unclear as to whether the old covenant departed were conscious prior to the resurrection. Perhaps the lack of consciousness implied in vs. like Ecclesiastes 9:10, Isaiah 38:18, and Psalms 13:3 concerns the decaying body of the departed alone and not the spirit? Or perhaps words like “sleep” are used nonliterally as symbols of death since whatever death is like prior to the resurrection it is like being asleep in that there is no working or planning (Ecclesiastes 9:10), it is dark (Psalms 13:3), and no one praises God (Psalms 6:5). Perhaps there is another explanation for these sleep-like descriptions? Maybe no one works or plans for the future in death as stated in Ecclesiastes 9:10 because they are confined to a pit or prison-like place and people do not work or plan in prison if they do not think they are getting out? Maybe this prison is dark (Psalms 13:3) like the outer darkness Jesus often mentions? And maybe no one praises God in death prior to the resurrection (Psalms 6:5) because they cannot see God or perhaps they are angry at Him for seeming to have abandoned them in this dark prison? Likewise in this prison the old covenant departed whether righteous or wicked all share the same fate, a perceived injustice (Ecclesiastes 5:15-16). Because of this lack of clarity one can only speculate.2
A Preterist View of the Resurrection: Prior to the Resurrection the Deeds of the Living did Not Benefit or Harm Them in Death (Ecclesiastes 5:15-16). This Changed after the Resurrection at the End of the Age and the Subsequent Judgment of the Departed (Revelation 14:13; 20).
Concerning the perceived injustice of Sheol during the Old Covenant Age, Solomon writes, “Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. This too is a grievous evil: As everyone comes, so they depart, and what do they gain, since they toil for the wind (Ecclesiastes 5:15-16)?” After Jesus’ death for the remission of sins–past, present and future–and the subsequent resurrection of the saints from Sheol at the end of the age the opposite occurs: “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them (Revelation 14:13).’” According to Ecclesiastes 5:15-16 both the wicked and the righteous of the Old Covenant Era shared the same fate after death regardless of their deeds in life. Solomon sees this as a grave injustice. However, this injustice is rectified at the resurrection and judgment at the end of the age (Revelation 20:4-15). According to Revelation 14:13 it is then that spiritual death (i.e. Sheol) is conquered and the deeds of the righteous and wicked are finally rewarded or punished.3
A Full Preterist View of the Resurrection: 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 imply that the Saints Who have outlived the Resurrection will be raised to Heaven after Death without a lengthy Imprisonment in Sheol while Those still in Sheol at the Resurrection will rise to Heaven First.
Having described the curse of Sheol, spiritual death, during the Old Covenant Age and how those confined in this dark realm of death were released at the resurrection, let us now take another look at 1 Corinthians 15:51-52: “We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 appears to be describing the resurrection of the dead out of Sheol at the last trumpet. Those who are asleep in v. 51 are those in Sheol that are raised to new life in heaven. These verses suggest that during and after the resurrection at the last trumpet, many people will no longer be imprisoned in death or the sleepy realm of Sheol before resurrecting from the dead. These people will be “changed” meaning that they will be given their resurrection bodies immediately after death presumably without being trapped in Sheol first. In light of this understanding, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 now seems to echo this point. The reason why the “the dead in Christ will rise first” is because those “who are left until the coming of the Lord” must wait until their individual time of death sometime after the last trumpet before they are “changed” into their resurrection bodies (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Thus I believe the “change” mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 begins at the last trumpet and continues thereafter immediately at the time of physical death.
What about the fact that the saints are said to meet the Lord in the air in 1 Thessalonians 4:17? The Greek word for air in this verse is interchangeable with sky or heaven, the afterlife realm of the blessed (Ephesians 2:2, 2:6; 6:12; Revelation 12:7-9). In many languages, like English, heaven has two meanings: the firmament and the afterlife realm of the blessed.
The clouds in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 upon which the saints meet the Lord is the Glory Cloud, the quintessential Biblical sign of the spiritual presence of God (2 Samuel 22:8-15, Isaiah 66:15-16, Psalm 18:6-16, Psalm 50:3, Psalm 97:1-5, Psalm 144:5, Exodus 40:34-38 and Leviticus 16:2). The fact that the saints meet the Lord in the Glory Cloud during the resurrection is illustrated in the transfiguration. See How and Why 2 Peter 1:16-18 Implies that the Transfiguration is a Visionary Type of the Second Coming and How Every Element of the Transfiguration Literally Modeled the Various Manifestations of the First Century Parousia.
A Covenant Eschatology Interpretation of the Resurrection: The “Change” that the Living Experienced Who have outlived the Resurrection at the Last Trumpet in 1 Corinthians 15:52 May Also be a Covenantal Change.
The change that the living experienced at the time of the resurrection at the last trumpet may also have been spiritual or what I call “covenantal life” signified by the fulfillment of the Law and the establishment of the New Covenant in A.D. 70. This change of the living in v. 52 is concurrent with the resurrection at the last trumpet. I believe this change is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:16-19:
So then from now on we acknowledge no one from an outward human point of view. Even though we have known Christ from such a human point of view, now we do not know him in that way any longer. So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away—look, what is new has come! And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation [emphasis mine].4
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we see that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. This “new creation” or change is a consequence of the forgiveness of sin according to v. 18-19: “And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation.” Interestingly, though the saints are granted forgiveness at the reception of the Holy Spirit while still alive, forgiveness is not fully enacted until the resurrection of the dead:
“Now when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will happen, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law (1 Corinthians 15:54-56).
In 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 we can see that forgiveness of sins is fully enacted at the resurrection when the “perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality[.]” The resurrection was to occur at the last trumpet. The last trumpet appears to be the seventh trumpet blown in A.D. 70 during the Roman siege of Jerusalem. See the preterist commentary on Revelation 11 and Revelation 16. The seventh trumpet of Revelation came to its fulfillment at the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. The destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 was the ultimate sign of the fulfillment of the Law because with the Temple destroyed it became impossible to fully follow the Law of Moses. Thus the destruction of the Temple was the event that marked the end of the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses, and the firm establishment of the New Covenant, Christianity. It was at this time that the dead were resurrected to heaven where 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 could be said to be fulfilled in a literal sense.
However, with the passing of the Law in A.D. 70 the sting of sin was done away with: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law (1 Corinthians 15:56).” Thus with the passing of the Law and the resulting passing of “the sting of death” and the “power of sin” by way of the forgiveness of sins, the saints who lived beyond A.D. 70 were also changed into “a new creation” in a covenantal sense:
So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away—look, what is new has come! And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-19).5
Thus those saints who were alive in A.D. 70 were also changed in a 1 Corinthians 15:52 by being made into a “new creation” through the passing of the Law and the forgiveness of sins in a spiritual or covenantal sense (2 Corinthians 5:16-19). What is spiritual or covenantal life or spiritual or covenantal death?
It is critically important to recognize that during the Old Covenant, the Law brought spiritual, not biological, death. Though we shall prove this idea shortly, this notion is well-illustrated in Romans 7:9: “Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.”6 Notice that Paul did not die physically when he first heard the Law, rather he died spiritually. Spiritual death is separation from God. If Paul died spiritually as a result of being under the Law, then if the Law were to pass away or be fulfilled it would stand to reason that as a saint Paul would then gain spiritual life as a result. This is the implicit message conveyed at the end of 1 Corinthians 15:
For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law (1 Corinthians 15:52-56).
Notice that 1 Corinthians 15:55-56 links sin and death with the Law: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law[emphasis mine].” 1 Corinthians 15:55-56 compliments Paul’s message in Romans 7:9. According to Romans 7:9 and 1 Corinthians 15:55-56 the Law brings sin and sin brings spiritual death. Thus the change in v. 52 that occurred to those still living on earth at the time of the resurrection was a change from spiritual death to spiritual life by the fulfillment and subsequent passing away of the Law at the destruction of the Temple and the concurrent resurrection in A.D. 70.
This idea that spiritual life follows the passing away of the Law is implicit in Romans 8:1-2: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Notice that according to Romans 8:1-2 just as the Law brought spiritual death, faith in Christ frees the believer from this curse of spiritual death. This idea that spiritual death comes with the Law and that spiritual life comes from being freed from the Law by faith in Jesus Christ is echoed in Romans 7:4, Galatians 2:19-20, and Colossians 2:11-13:
“So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God (Romans 7:4).”
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:19-20).”
“Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ (Colossians 2: 9-13).”
In light of the verses cited above it seems that the change experienced by the living saints upon the passing of the Law in A.D. 70 was a change from spiritual death to spiritual life brought about by the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ as indicated in 2 Corinthians 5:16-19 cited above. Spiritual life and spiritual death might also be aptly labeled covenantal life and death. Covenantal or spiritual life is a promise or covenant between God and the living saints assuring them that after biological death these saints were to be resurrected to experience eternal life in heaven during the new covenant age. Upon accepting Christ in the years preceding the destruction of the Temple, the saints received a covenantal promise of eternal life in the age to come. But if these saints died before A.D. 70, they were confined to Sheol to await the resurrection. This covenantal promise of eternal life reached its culmination or fulfilment at the destruction of the Temple and the concurrent resurrection at the last trumpet. All the saints who died after this event in A.D. 70 presumably all received their heavenly resurrection bodies immediately after biological death without experiencing a lengthy consignment in Sheol first. Thus the saints who died after A.D. 70 were not separated from God in Sheol (spiritual death) after biological death unlike the saints who died before A.D. 70.
Ephesians 2:5-6 perfectly illustrates this notion of spiritual or covenantal life: “[E]ven when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ . . . and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus[.]” Notice that the author of Ephesians 2:5-6 uses the past tense “made us alive” when referring to the future resurrection of the saints to heaven at the last trumpet, an event which had not yet occurred at the time in which these verses were written. Ephesians 2:5-6 associates life and death in the past or present with the fate of the soul in the future. Thus those who are “dead in their transgressions” in Ephesians 2:5-6 are those destined for hell while those who are said to be alive in an eternal sense are those who will ultimately be seated with Christ in the heavenly places at the resurrection. Ephesians 2:5-6 are not the only verses in the Bible in which the future is stated in the present or past tense, Matthew 23:38 and Revelation 14:8 are two other examples:
“Look, your house is left to you desolate (Matthew 23:38).” (The Temple was actually destroyed in A.D. 70 about forty years after Jesus spoke these words.)
“A second angel followed and said, “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great (Revelation 14:8)[.]’” (Though the fall of Babylon is mentioned in the past tense in this v., the angel issuing this statement is actually issuing a warning.)
One reason why the future is presented in the present or past tense in Matthew 23:38 and Revelation 14:8 may be to convey the idea that the future when spoken under divine inspiration is just as certain as the past or the present. As is the case in Matthew 23:38 and Revelation 14:8, Ephesians 2:5-6 seems to present its future promise in the past or present tense because this promise to the faithful of eternal life in heaven after biological death is 100 percent assured as if it were presently taking place or as though it had already transpired. Furthermore, when the future is written in the present or past tense it also conveys a hyperbolic sense of imminence. Thus the saints are said to already have eternal life in Ephesians 2:5-6 even though the resurrection had not yet occurred because this eternal life is covenantal life, an unbreakable covenant that is 100 percent assured to those presently living on the earth, that is very soon to occur (Romans 8:38-39).
The same message is conveyed in 1 Corinthians 15:52. The living mortals who are “changed,” made alive or given eternal life at the time of the resurrection in v. 52 are said to receive this life in the then present tense (at the time of the resurrection) because their future in heaven at that time is as assured as though they were presently entering heaven at that time or that they had already entered it in the past.
1 Corinthians 15:52 and Ephesians 2:5-6 are not the only verses in the Bible in which eternal life or spiritual death are covenantal and thus imparted upon those still alive on earth. Above we cited Romans 7:9 as another example of spiritual or covenantal death: “Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” Paul clearly did not die in an earthly, biological sense when he heard the Law. Therefore, the death that Paul experienced in Romans 7:9 was spiritual or covenantal death.
Covenantal death was also experienced by Adam after he ate of the forbidden fruit. In Genesis 2:17, God tells Adam not to eat of the forbidden fruit “for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Adam certainly did not die in a biological, earthly sense on the day in which he ate of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 5:3-5). It must be noted that this day was a literal 24-hour day as Adam did, in fact, learn right from wrong the day or moment in which he ate of the forbidden fruit as stated in Genesis 3:5: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The fact that Adam knew good from evil on the 24-hour day in which he ate of the forbidden fruit is indicated in Genesis 2:6-7:
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings [emphasis mine].
The death that Adam experienced in the 24-hour day in which he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was clearly not earthly, biological death since Adam died after having lived 930 years (Genesis 5:3-5). Thus Adam lived for at least 800 to 900 years after having eaten the forbidden fruit.7 The death that Adam experienced the day in which he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was also covenantal death.8
Covenantal life is also exemplified in John 11:25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die.” Notice that in v. 25 Jesus says, “The one who believes in me will live even if he dies.” This, of course, means that the resurrection will transpire after physical death. However, v. 25 also has covenantal or spiritual significance as is explicitly indicated in v. 26: “[A]nd the one who lives and believes in me will never die.” Of course, everyone who has ever believed in Jesus has died physically. The “life” mentioned in John 11:26 like that of Ephesians 2:5 is covenantal life, a promise or covenant made by God to the living saints of eternal life in heaven after biological death as a result of the forgiveness of sins.9
Following the precedence set in Genesis 2:17, John 11:26, Romans 7:9 and Ephesians 2:5-6, the “change” experienced by the living in 1 Corinthians 15:52 at the time of the resurrection appears to be the reception of eternal life while still on earth in a covenantal sense. This eternal covenantal life is a guarantee of eternal life in heaven after biological death. Now it is possible to see what is meant by the covenantal “change” of 1 Corinthians 15:52. This change is the same change in which the saints receive eternal covenantal life while still in their mortal bodies mentioned in Ephesians 2:5-6: “[E]ven when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus[.]” Those who were still physically alive who were changed at the resurrection were those saints who had outlived the resurrection at the last trumpet who were guaranteed eternal life in heaven after death because the sin induced by the Law had been removed at its passing or fulfillment at the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 (Romans 7:4, 9; 8:1-2; Galatians 2:19-20; Colossians 2:11-13). Because the curse of sin and spiritual death induced by the Law had been removed at the Temple’s destruction in A.D. 70, the saints in Sheol were then free to enter heaven at that time which corresponded with the sounding of the seventh and last trumpet. In other words, because the dead saints of old had already received the gift of eternal life in heaven having been resurrected at the last trumpet in A.D. 70, those saints who were still alive at that time or anytime thereafter were and are 100% guaranteed the same fate. Thus all the saints who have outlived the resurrection at the last trumpet have already received eternal life even while in their mortal bodies. The change experienced by the living saints in A.D. 70 was spiritual life which is the covenantal promise of eternal life after biological death during the new covenant age. The saints who had outlived the mass-resurrection at the last trumpet were changed from being dead in their sins to truly being alive in Christ. These saints were changed in a covenantal sense by being made “alive together with Christ” even while still on earth because they were guaranteed to enter heaven after death and experience eternal life without experiencing spiritual death in Sheol first. In other words, at the time of the resurrection the saints had all simultaneously received eternal life in a covenantal sense. This promise of eternal life is and was, of course, actualized when the departed saints receive or received their promise of eternal life when they literally enter or entered heaven. The saints who outlived the resurrection at the last trumpet were changed in the sense that they also received eternal life at that time in a covenantal sense since at the moment of biological death they too were to live eternally in heaven. Thus those saints still alive at the time of the resurrection were “changed” by having been given eternal life in a covenantal sense though they had not yet literally entered heaven mirroring the way in which the saints are said to be alive even before resurrecting to heaven in Ephesians 2:5-6 and John 11:26 or that sinners are considered dead in a covenantal sense even while still physically alive in Genesis 5:3-5, Romans 7:9 and Ephesians 2:5-6. Therefore, the change mentioned in v. 52 is fully consistent with the change the living experienced when they received eternal life or spiritual death in a covenantal sense even while still alive in Ephesians 2:5-6, John 11:26, Genesis 5:3-5, and Romans 7:9.
This change that affects the living at the parousia mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:52 may also point to a spiritual transformation of the saints on earth who are gradually being conformed to likeness of the Son. 2 Corinthians 3:18 reads, “And we all . . . are being transformed into his [Christ’s] image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” This gradual change mentioned in 2 Corinthians 3:18 in which the saints mature spiritually and ethically to become more like Christ begins on earth and is called the process of sanctification. This process of sanctification mentioned in 2 Corinthians 3:18 guarantees ascension into heaven immediately for those who have died after the parousia. This appears to be the message conveyed in Romans 6:2-11:
We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus [emphasis mine].
Notice that according to Romans 6, when the saints are baptized they become part of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thereafter Paul implores the saints to die to sin thus the processes of sanctification appears to be presented in resurrection imagery in Romans 6:2-11. Perhaps the change referred to in 1 Corinthians 15:52 also alludes in part to this process of sanctification?
Preterism and the Individual Body View of the Resurrection: In Light of 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, the Word “Caught Up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 does not mean that the Saints are Raptured or Raised to Heaven Corporally.
1 Thessalonians 4:17 says that the saints will be “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air. “The words ‘caught up’ are [from] the Greek word harapazo, it means: ‘to snatch away.’ Interestingly harapazo or “caught up” is also found in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 and Revelation 12:5:
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up [harapazo] to the third heaven. And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—was caught up [harapazo] into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).
And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up [harapazo] to God and to His throne (Revelation 12:5).
Notice that in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 and Revelation 12:5 harapazo or “caught up” is applied to those taken to heaven, the realm of God and angels, not the literal sky. In many languages like “heaven” in English the word for sky is the same word that is used for the afterlife realm of the blessed or the realm of God and angels. Similar meaning is often implied in related words like “air.” Satan is called “the prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2. Satan is called “the prince of the power of the air” because before being cast out of heaven, Satan’s throne was in heaven (Ephesians 6:12, Revelation 12:7-9). I believe the same meaning is implied in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 where the saints are said to meet the Lord in the “air”: Air is heaven. This is also what appears to be implied in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 since 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says that it is here, presumably in the air (heaven), that the saints remain with Christ forever: “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” Will the saints be trapped in the air with the Lord forever, or will the saints be with the Lord forever in heaven? As stated above and implied by the use of harapazo in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 and Revelation 12:5 the “air” mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is heaven (Ephesians 2:2, 2:6; Ephesians 6:12; Revelation 12:7-9) where the saints are said to reign with Christ forever: “[A]nd [Christ] raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus[.]” (Ephesians 2:6)
But doesn’t the fact that the saints are said in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 to meet the Lord in the clouds imply that “air” is literal thus suggesting a rapture of the living? No. The fact that the saints are said to meet the Lord in the clouds is an allusion to the Glory Cloud, the quintessential sign of the presence of God. The Glory Cloud marking the presence of God is mentioned often in Scripture (2 Samuel 22:8-15; Isaiah 66:15-16; Psalm 18:6-16; 50:3; 97:1-5; 144:5; Exodus 40:34-38; Leviticus 16:2; Ezekiel 1:4). The fact that the saints are to be raised to meet the Lord in the Glory Cloud and that the Glory Cloud truly and normally exists in heaven (except for perhaps during judgment comings) appears to me to be implied in the Dead Sea Scrolls: “And He [the Lord] lifts him [the saints] up to the clouds to share a common assembly with the ‘gods.’”10 Do the “gods” or heavenly host normally reside in literal earthly clouds? Or are the angels of the presence of God normally and typically present in heaven (Genesis 28:12, Matthew 18:10, Acts 7:48-49, Revelation 7:11)?
As stated above, the holy saints are expected to be raised to heaven to reside with the Lord in the presence of the holy angels at the resurrection. The fact that the saints are to be raised to heaven at the resurrection to reside with the angels therein may be implied by a comparison between 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and Hebrews 1:7. Hebrews 1:7 reads, “And of the angels He says, who makes His angels winds[.]” [Emphasis mine.] Of course wind and air are the same thing. Thus when the saints are said to be caught up in the air in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, perhaps this verse also implies that these people were to be brought into the presence of the winds or holy angels of the presence of God in heaven?
Realized Eschatology and the Resurrection: Revelation 14:13 and Revelation 21:24-26 support the Resurrection Interpretation of these Verses.
The fact that the saints who have outlived the parousia are raised to heaven immediately after death is supported by Revelation 14:13 and Revelation 21:24-26. Revelation 14:13 reads, “’Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.’” Revelation 21:24-26 presents a similar message. According to these verses, the gates of the New Jerusalem are always open in order to forever allow the nations and kings of the earth to “bring their splendor into it.” If the rapture and resurrection occur all at once, as is commonly supposed in futurist circles, how is it that according to Revelation 14:13 and Revelation 21:24-26 people are continuously entering the New Jerusalem long after the resurrection and the rapture? These verses challenge this idea. However, what is stated in Revelation 21:24-26 and Revelation 14:13 are exactly what one would expect if life on earth continues after the end of the age and the saints who have outlived the resurrection are each raised to heaven at the time of death.
The Preterist Individual Body View of the Resurrection is Supported by the Pseudepigrapha: The Fact that the Souls of the Saints are Released from Satan’s confinement in Hades to Heaven at the End of the Age is also Found in the Pseudepigrapha.
The fact that the saints are raised out of Satanic confinement in Hades to heaven at the end of the age is also taught in the Pseudepigrapha. 1 Enoch 104:2-3 reads, “[A]nd your names [the saints] are written before the glory of the Great One. Be hopeful; for aforetime ye were put to shame through ill and affliction; but now ye shall shine as the lights of heaven, ye shall shine and ye shall be seen, and the portals of heaven shall be opened to you.” This idea is also found in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs wherein God is said to fight Satan, Beliar, and release the spirits of the holy ones in Satan’s captivity so that they were to be raised to reside in heaven with the Lord at the end time:
And the captivity shall He [the Lord] take from Beliar, even the souls of the saints, . . . and the saints shall rest in Eden, and the righteous shall rejoice in the new Jerusalem, which shall be unto the glory of God for ever and ever. And no longer shall Jerusalem endure desolation, nor Israel be led captive; for the Lord shall be in the midst of her, dwelling among men, even the Holy One of Israel reigning over them in humility and in poverty; and he who believeth on Him shall reign in truth in the heavens.11
“Hyper Preterism” and the Resurrection: Why the Formal Understanding of Parousia does Not Appear to be Violated in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 with a Resurrection of the Dead to Heaven in A.D. 70.
Though I do not believe in a first-century rapture there is a common argument cited by anti-rapturists that is often used to refute the rapture that is worth mentioning. It is perhaps beyond dispute that 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 is a prophecy concerning the Parousia or second coming:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
It is sometimes argued that 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 is unlikely to be a prophecy about the rapture because when mentioning the second coming the Greek word that is often used to label this event is Parousia. Parousia is a Greek word which denotes the coming and presence of an important figure. In its formal usage it implies that a regal figure like a king or general was to come to a city. The inhabitants of the city would then meet this figure outside of the city gates and then escort this this person into the city with them. In its formal usage a regal figure does not meet the inhabitants of a city outside of the city and then take them elsewhere as the doctrine of the rapture implies.
I do not believe that this is a good argument against the rapture as it also argues against what I believe to be a proper understanding of the resurrection to heaven as well. One of the major problems with this argument is that it assumes that the formal understanding of parousia is intended in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. Parousia can also be understood in other ways. For example Leonippus, the Prefect of Caria, refers to his military assault on Asia as his parousia. Furthermore, an inscription in the 3rd century B.C. records the healing of an individual at the temple of Asclepius at Epidaurus as a parousia of the god Asclepius.12 Both uses of parousiaappear particularly appropriate for the way in which parousia appears in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. In these verses the parousia of a divine being, the Lord Jesus Christ, occurs amidst a military invasion.
The above argument also assumes that Christ’s parousia is just a brief-one time event in the sky when Jesus would come on the clouds to collect the righteous and then bring them back with Him to heaven. Is this a proper understanding of the Parousia or second coming? In the ancient world it was very perilous, expensive and time consuming to travel to distant cities in a large empire. Therefore, when an emperor visited a city in his empire he would often stay for some time. For example, when Nero visited Greece in A.D. 66, he stayed until late A.D. 67 or early A.D. 68. The entire length of Nero’s stay in Greece was his parousia. Parousia does not just mean coming or arrival, it also denotes the presence of a regal figure. In other words, parousia is a word perhaps more accurately translated visit than coming. This fact is illustrated in Philippians 2:12: “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence [parousia], but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling[.]” In this verse one can see how parousia denotes the presence of visitors, not just their coming or arrival. Thus parousia is a word used to denote the coming and presence of a royal figure which came to a close at his or her departure. In other words, this word often connotes the coming to and subsequent presence of a king or other royal figure in a city often followed by a departure to the capital city assuming, of course, that the city being visited is not the capital itself.
Having properly defined parousia, let us now look at the Parousia at the end of the age. After Jesus’ earthly ministry, He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9-11) and there He presumably stayed with the Father (Luke 19:12-27; John 8:21-23; 13:1; 14:2-3; 16:7; Acts 3:19-21; 7:55; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Hebrews 9:24; 1 Peter 3:22) before coming back to earth to enact judgment at the end of the age. The fact that Jesus came back down to earth at the Parousia when He came on the clouds of heaven is implied in Psalm 18:9. In this verse God is said to come down from heaven when He comes on the clouds in judgment: “He [God] parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet (Psalm 18:9).” All the verses cited above show that the true seat of Christ’s throne is the Jerusalem of heaven mentioned in John 18:36, Hebrews 12:22 and Galatians 4:26 where Jesus rules at the right hand of the Father. As mentioned above, the formal usage of parousia suggests that an important figure was to come and stay in a city oftentimes for quite some time before later departing back to the capital if this city is not the capital. I believe that Jesus came on the clouds of heaven in a visible manner at the start of the Jewish War in Iyyar of A.D. 66 when an army of angels was witnessed riding on the clouds in Israel. This event strikingly resembles descriptions of the Parousia especially the one mentioned in Revelation 19 which depicts Jesus riding a white horse leading an army of angels on the clouds. I believe this was the “coming” aspect of the Parousia. See Jesus, the Son of Man, was LITERALLY Seen in the Clouds in A.D. 66. I believe Jesus then stayed throughout the entire duration of the Jewish War actively enacting judgment on wayward Israel before departing back to heaven with the saints at the last trumpet in A.D. 70. See Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. Thus from A.D. 66 to A.D. 70 is the “presence” aspect of the Parousia. If this description of the Parousia is true then 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 does not violate the formal usage of Parousia in the ancient world as the Parousia appears to have begun in A.D. 66 and lingered until A.D. 70. Thus Jesus did not come to earth and then immediately take the saints back with Him to heaven, rather, He stayed on earth to enact judgment for some time before finally returning back to His capital, the Jerusalem that is in heaven, with His people at the resurrection in A.D. 70. Therefore, assuming that Jesus first came in judgment at the start of the Jewish War in Iyyar of A.D. 66 when the army of angels was witnessed in the clouds and stayed to enact judgment before finally accompanying the resurrected dead back with Him to heaven this understanding of the Parousia perfectly fits the formal usage of this term in the ancient Greco-Roman world. It should also be noted that the formal understanding of Parousia is an especially appropriate word to describe the second coming if the two witnesses are who they seem to be. See the preterist commentary on Revelation 11. That being said, is there any evidence that the resurrection has already occurred?
A Preterist View of the Resurrection: The Resurrection may have begun at the Start of the Jewish War though the Departed did not enter Heaven until the Resurrection at the Seventh Trumpet.
1 Corinthians 15:52 says that the resurrection was to occur at the last trumpet. Many preterists believe that the last trumpet is the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15. A literal trumpet would have likely been blown by the Roman army at the start of the siege of Jerusalem. Perhaps the seventh trumpet of Revelation was blown at this time? As is implied in Revelation 15:8 and 1 Corinthians 15:52, the departed do not finally enter heaven until the sounding of the seventh trumpet. The seventh trumpet was blown by the Roman army to signal the start of the siege of Jerusalem on Passover of A.D. 70. Though this is true, the resurrection may have actually began over forty-two months earlier at the start of the Jewish War. This forty-two month or three and a half year period is the time in which the woman of Revelation 12:14 is kept safe out of the serpent’s reach which I believe is the interval between the arrival of the Roman army at Jerusalem under Cestius on the Feast of Tabernacles in A.D. 66 to the start of the siege of Jerusalem in Nisan of A.D. 70—forty-two months later.13 (Though this 42 month or three and half year period could also correspond with the arrival of Vespasian in the early spring of A.D. 67 to the fall of Jerusalem in September of A.D. 70, three and a half years later.)
In Revelation 12:15, a river pours out of the serpent’s mouth to drown the woman representing the saints in a flood. At the start of the Jewish revolt, Emperor Nero, the beast with the wounded head of Revelation 13:3, was in Greece about to build a canal. This man-made river appears to be referred to in Revelation 12:15. Rivers and floods frequently represent foreign armies in the Bible (Daniel 7; 9:26; 11:10, 40; Psalm 65:7; 144:7, Isaiah 8:7-8; 17:12; 60:5; Jeremiah 46:7-8; 47:1-2; 51:55-56; Ezekiel 26:3; Joel 2:9; Nahum 1:8). Thus the river and resulting flood of Revelation 12:15 are both Biblical symbols of the army Nero dispatched when he heard about the Jewish revolt at the start of the construction of this canal.14 See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations. Did the resurrection begin at this time?
Preterism and the Resurrection: A Multitude as Seen Rising out of the Earth at the Sound of a Trumpet in A.D. 66 in fulfillment of 1 Corinthians 15:52: “For the Trumpet will sound, [and] the Dead will be raised Imperishable. . . .”
It appears so. As construction of the canal began, Cassius Dio writes, “[W]hen the first workers touched the earth, blood spouted from it, groans and bellowings were heard, and many phantoms appeared. Nero himself thereupon grasped a mattock and by throwing up some of the soil fairly compelled the rest to imitate him.”15 Recording this event, Suetonius indicates that as Nero broke the ground, the sound of a trumpet was heard.16 The fact that a trumpet was heard at the time in which the dead appear to have been raised literally fulfills 1 Corinthians 15:52: “For the trumpet will sound, [and] the dead will be raised imperishable. . . .”
I believe that the supernatural mass-sighting mentioned above was similar to Elisha’s servant’s vision of the army of angels that surrounded Elisha in 2 Kings 6:17. In 2 Kings 6:17 Elisha prays that his servant would be able to see all the angelic soldiers protecting them, and the servant is temporarily given the ability to see this. I believe this vision of the resurrection mentioned above is similar to Elisha’s servant’s temporary God-given ability to see otherworldly beings in the unseen realm. I believe that those who witnessed these phantoms coming out of the earth were also temporarily given the ability to see this otherwise invisible event in the same way that Elisha’s servant was temporarily given the ability to see the otherwise invisible angelic forces around him and his companion.
As already indicated, these resurrected beings, however, do not finally enter heaven until the seven plagues are completed. I believe that those who had been resurrected at the start of the Jewish War are taken to a safe place away from Satan’s reach for 1260 days. These 1260 days, forty-two months or three and a half years may correspond with the interval between the arrival of the Roman army outside of Jerusalem under Cestius during the month of Tishri in A.D. 66 until Passover of A.D. 70 when Titus began his attack on Jerusalem at the last trumpet in fulfillment of Revelation 12:14.
It is interesting to note that after the sealing of the 144,000 there appears to be an implicit resurrection mentioned immediately thereafter in Revelation 7 and 14 which strangely punctuates the final plague and/or the start of the seven plagues. As explained in this commentary, the seven plagues (i.e. the seven seals, the seven trumpets and the seven bowls) began in A.D. 66 at the start of the Jewish War around the time in which the phantoms mentioned above were reported by Cassius Dio. These seven plagues then traversed the course of the Jewish War before culminating in the fall of Jerusalem at the seventh plague. Could this ambiguous placement of the resurrection in Revelation hint or point to the possibility that some of the dead were raised at the start of the Jewish War but did not enter heaven until the seventh trumpet of A.D. 70? If this idea is true, then it not only compliments the historical evidence but also explains the strange and seemingly contradictory placement of the resurrection at both the start and end of the Jewish War in the Book of Revelation.
Preterism and the Resurrection: The Flight of the Christians to and the Return from Pella is an Earthy Mirror of the Resurrection.
Biblical predictions are often fulfilled both in heaven and on earth. I believe the resurrection of the dead, though a heavenly event, has an earthly counterpart in the flight of Israelite Christians to Pella before the start of the war with Rome. These Christian refugees like the resurrected saints were similarly kept safe from the beast for three and a half years. See Revelation 12: A Preterist Commentary and Did Josephus Record the Resurrection?.
Preterism, “A.D. 70 Doctrine,” and the Resurrection: The Fact that the Resurrection occurred in A.D. 70, When the Christian Religion was EXACTLY Forty Years Old, Fulfills Hebrews 3-4.
According to Hebrews 3:10-11 and Psalm 95:10-11, the former Hebrew slaves wandered in the wilderness during the exodus for forty years before their children entered Israel–the promised rest. In Hebrews 3-4, Paul likens the forty-year interval in which the Hebrew slaves wandered in the desert and the subsequent rest their offspring received in the promised land to the life of the Christian saints on earth as they await the resurrection—the promised rest of the saints.
Interestingly, there appears to have been precisely forty years from the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry to the start of the siege of Jerusalem and the resurrection of the dead at the seventh trumpet. Biblical and historical evidence suggest that Jesus most likely began his ministry around Tishri of A.D. 29. See Daniel 9:24-27 Commentary: Daniel 9 Miraculously Fulfilled! The siege of Jerusalem and the resurrection of the dead began, I believe, in Nisan of A.D. 70. This is an interval of forty years and six months. In other words, Christianity was forty years old by the time of the resurrection—when the Christian saints wandering in the wilderness finally received their promised rest. Is this a coincidence?
Realized Eschatology and the Resurrection: Floating up to the Sky immediately after Death is a commonly reported Near-Death Experience Confirming the Resurrection Interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.
As stated above, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 imply that the saints will be given their resurrection bodies immediately after death without being confined to Sheol first. Is there any evidence from near-death experiences (NDE’s) that life on earth continues after the resurrection and people resurrect immediately after death?
Yes. After a snowboarding accident, one survivor of clinical death described his near-death experience (NDE) very much like Paul’s description of the resurrection in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:
I recall in some of the most vivid detail that I was floating above the main ski lodge. It seemed like I was in a helicopter about 50-70 feet above the ground just hovering. There was either no noise or total silence. But I remember I could feel the warmth of the sun, but it wasn’t the sun it was much brighter and hurt to look directly at.17
Reports of floating up to heaven after clinical death are an exceedingly common NDE. Could this be the resurrection referred to by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17? The above NDE is one of many examples in which people describe floating up to meet a loving light in the sky after suffering clinical death. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Paul says that at the resurrection the departed will rise up to meet Christ in the sky. Is this light Jesus?
Often throughout the New Testament, Jesus identifies himself as the light of the world. Furthermore, in Acts 9 Paul is said to have encountered the resurrected Christ on his way to Damascus. Reporting this encounter, Luke writes, “As he [Paul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him (Acts 9:3).” This depiction of Christ as “a light from heaven” bears a striking resemblance to the light many people encounter during NDE’s. In light of the Biblical similarities, it is not surprising that many people who have had NDE’s identify the light as Jesus. For a detailed explanation of how Jesus’ resurrection body was further glorified after having ascended into heaven in Acts 1 such that it was later described in the Bible as beaming with brilliant radiance so as to resemble the Father and the angels of heaven see How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Mirror Jesus’ Resurrection Body after His Ascension Into Heaven Fulfilling Philippians 3:20-21 and ALL Other Bible Verses on the Resurrection!!!.
Using evidence from Biblical chronology, Biblical testimony, NDE’s, and Roman history, the above Preterist commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 has shown how these verses seem to describe the resurrection of the dead. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 accurately foretell the fact that after the last trumpet, the saints are quickly raised to life after physical death seemingly without the need to appeal to a literal rapture in A.D. 70.
**NOTE** This is a NEW website. If you liked this article share it, like us on Facebook and follow on Twitter. Thank You!
Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
- The belief in a first century rapture is not supported by Christian history. Not only is there no historical evidence of the sudden disappearance of the entire Christian church, there is historical evidence that Christians alive prior to A.D. 70 were still present on earth after the supposed date of the rapture. For example, the Christians that fled to Pella at the start of the Jewish War were recorded having returned to Israel after the Jewish War. Furthermore, Hegesippus [A.D. 170] says that Jesus’ biological brother Judas, a leader of the Christian church, lived until the reign of Trajan. It must also be noted that the Apostle John is said to have lived at least until Domitian’s reign according to Church tradition. If the rapture of all believing Christians occurred in A.D. 70, why were the Christians that fled to Pella and these pillars of the faith left behind?
- If one is inclined to interpret descriptions of Sheol in vs. like Ezekiel 32:21 and Luke 16:19-31 literally, then Sheol may be what is often called the void by researchers who study near-death experiences (NDE’s). Like Sheol, the void is an afterlife realm of complete darkness. It is said to be completely absent of light at its lower depths but greyish or foggy at its outer edges. It is a great expanse of black nothingness that seems limitless to those trapped in its depths. While referring to Sheol, the void, 1 Corinthians 15:51 says, “We will not all sleep.” As stated in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, the void is a realm where some sleep while it would seem that the majority of people who have reportedly experienced the void during an NDE are conscious and aware. (www.near-death.com/experiences/research06.html (3/20/2008)) The void is a place that the dead frequently pass through on their way to heaven. And like Biblical descriptions of Sheol, it is also a place where the dead are sometimes temporarily trapped before finally rising up to more pleasant heavenly realms.
Though most people who have described experiencing Sheol or the void during NDE’s are conscious, some NDE’s do report an awareness of others who are in a coma-like sleep. Maybe while consigned to lengthy stays in the dark sensory deprivation of the lower recesses of the void, the departed slip in and out of consciousness? Perhaps this is why the dead are sometimes said to be asleep in verses like Psalm 13:3 and seem to be conscious in verses like in Ezekiel 32:21, 1 Peter 3:18-20 and Revelation 6:9-10? Even if one is fully conscious in Sheol, I do not believe that in the pitch blackness of the void “where nothing exits but the thought patterns of those in it” (www.near-death.com/experiences/research15.html (9/12/2013)) it is a stretch for the Bible to use the words sleep or asleep when referring to the dead in Sheol since this is what the living do when it is dark
Though Sheol may be a place of darkness where the spirits of the departed sleep before the resurrection, it is also possible that Sheol is just physical death. If Sheol is just death itself, then Biblical descriptions of the sleepy existence after death may just be a description of the lack of consciousness experienced by the decaying body. This seems especially likely in light of Luke 23:43 and John 20:17.
It is generally accepted in preterist circles that the departed do not resurrect to heaven until A.D. 70. Prior to A.D. 70 the spirits of the righteous and wicked are confined to Hades or Sheol. What is Hades or Sheol and does Luke 23:43 and John 20:17 contradict this idea? In Luke 23:43, Jesus says to the man being crucified beside Him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Some commentators do not believe that Jesus promised that the man crucified beside Him would experience paradise with Jesus that day since Jesus had not ascended to the Father in heaven until many days after His resurrection according to John 20:17. Thus some commentators shift the comma after “today” such that Luke 23:43 reads, “Truly I say to you today, you shall be with Me in Paradise.” This verse now implies that Jesus is telling this man that day that he would be with Him in paradise after the resurrection at the end of the age, not that he would ascend to heaven that day.
However, it is also possible that this man did, in fact, experience paradise that day in Hades. 1 Peter 3:19 indicates that after His death on the cross but before resurrecting out of the tomb, Jesus preached to the spirits in Hades. Hades is a Greek word for the underworld or afterlife. The Greeks understood Hades to be partitioned into Tartarus, the deep abyss that is used as a dungeon of torment; the Asphodel Meadows, the abode of those who lived average lives; and the Elysian Fields, a realm of paradise. Based on Luke 23:43 and John 20:17 it would seem that this description of Hades as both a realm of punishment and bliss may be accurate.
Confirming the notion that Hades is also partitioned into a realm of Paradise, Her Pettersson had an interesting near death experience that confirms the idea that there is a pleasant realm in Hades and that the Gospel is preached there:
To Herr Pettersson the world of spirits resembled the material world. There were many countries, or “Kingdoms.” There were cities and villages, temples and palaces, flowers and animals of great beauty and variety. The people were very busy. Some were preaching on street corners and in assembly halls, and all had great congregations.
“Who are they?” Herr Pettersson asked (referring to the preachers)?
“They,” his guide answered, “belong to the church of the First born, and they have been sent here to be ministering spirits to those who shall yet becoming heirs of salvation.”
“I am afraid,” stammered Herr Pettersson, “that I do not comprehend you. Are we not in heaven? How can the world of salvation be preached here?”
“No brother!” the guide replied, “We are not in what mortals call heaven! This is Hades.” (http://www.near-death.com/science/experts/widdison-and-lundahl.html (8/3/2016).)
The church of the firstborn is a name given to the Christian church according to Hebrews 12:23.
How could Her Pettersson experience Hades if Hades was destroyed in A.D. 70 according to Revelation 20:14? Revelation 20:14 reads, “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.” But was Hades literally and completely destroyed in A.D. 70? It appears to me that it is unlikely that Hades was completely destroyed by fire in A.D. 70. Recall that heaven and earth were also destroyed by fire in A.D. 70 according to 2 Peter 3:7: “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” Heaven and earth were then renewed according to Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.” Though the earth representing the land of Israel was, in fact, destroyed by fire at the hands of the Romans in A.D. 70, the country, of course, was not completely obliterated. Instead, thousands of people were killed and exiled during the Jewish War but the land of Israel, the earth, ultimately remained. Something similar is presumably true in heaven when a vision of a great war between Michael and the Devil was seen by John in Revelation 12:7-10. Interestingly a vision of a war in heaven was also reported in A.D. 66 at the very start of the Jewish War. Tacitus writes, “In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour (Tacitus The Histories 5.13).” Was heaven completely destroyed during this war? If the earth or land of Israel was not completely annihilated during the Jewish War, it stands to reason that heaven was also not completely annihilated at this time as well. Therefore, if heaven and earth were not completely annihilated in A.D. 70, why would we assume that Hades was completely demolished at that time?
If Hades was not demolished, then what changed in A.D. 70? I believe Hades has always existed and will always exist but that in order to enter into the presence of God who resides in heaven one has to be sinless or made sinless. Entry into heaven was not made possible prior to A.D. 70 because no effective means of forgiveness existed. I believe it was by and through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross that access into the presence of God in heaven was made available to mankind. It was this sacrifice that pardoned sin that made it possible to be perfect in the eyes of God thus permitting mankind entry into heaven and the literal presence of God after physical death.
- David Green, Edward Hassertt, and Michael Sullivan, House Divided: Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be?, second ed. (Ramona, CA: Vision Publishing, 2013), 182-183.
- NET Bible.
- NET Bible.
- Seemingly echoing Romans 7:9, the Gospel of the Egyptians, an early non-canonical Christian Gospel dating somewhere between 80-150 A.D., refers to sin as the death of the soul: “Now, the Scripture speaks of man in two senses, the one that is seen, and the soul: and again, of him that is in a state of salvation, and him that is not: and sin is called the death of the soul.” [Emphasis mine.] This excerpt is cited in Clem. Alex. Strom. 3.9.64.
- According to Genesis 4:1 Adam ‘s first son, Cain, was conceived after being cast out of Eden. The birth of Seth was after the birth of Cain (Genesis 4:25) and Adam lived 800 years after the birth of Seth (Genesis 5:4).
- Don K. Preston, We Shall Meet Him in The Air: The Wedding of the King of Kings!, (Ardmore, OK: JaDon Management Inc., 2010), 6.
- That said, forgiveness of sins is ultimately enacted or brought into full-effect at the resurrection at the last trumpet according to 1 Corinthians 15:53-57:
For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 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. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice that according to 1 Corinthians 15:53-57 sin is ultimately and finally truly forgiven at the resurrection of the dead. These verses also imply that sin is finally forgiven at the passing of the Law at the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70.
- 4Q427 7 i-ii (IQH, frs. 7, 46, 55, 56, 4Q428 I5, 4Q43I I), cited in The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, trans. Geza Vermes, rev. ed. (London: Penguin Books, 2004), 304.
- The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs 7:5.
- Adolf Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East: The New Testament Illustrated by Recently Discovered Texts of the Graeco-Roman World, trans. Lionel R. M. Strachan (Grand Rapids: Baker Books House, 1978), 370.
- The Jews of the first century had both a lunar and solar calendar. One of which had twelve months each with thirty days. Using this calendar, 1260 days are three years and six months. However, not all of the saints left Jerusalem. According to Revelation 11 at the start of Titus’ siege of Jerusalem, the two witnesses were killed. These witnesses are also represented by this woman. Also in Matthew 24:22, Jesus, speaking of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, says, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” Though the majority of the saints had left the city, in this verse, Jesus implies that there would still be a saintly remnant left in Jerusalem.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 63.22.
- Ibid., 63.16.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.19.
- http://www.nderf.org/josh_w_nde.htm (6/3/2009).