Much confusion surrounds understanding of the rapture and the resurrection. I want to clear up at least some of it in this blog. Specifically, I want to show that, while connected, there is a difference between the rapture and the resurrection.
The main verse I want to examine is 1 Thess. 5:16-17,
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (NKJV).
Some of the confusion comes from the fact that both words for “resurrection” and “rapture” are used in this passage. When Paul says the dead in Christ will rise, he uses the Greek word anistaymee which means “to stand,” “arise” or “raise up,” or “rise up again.” It is derived from the main word for “resurrection” in the Bible, anastasis. The word for “rapture” (caught up) is the word harpazo. This word means to seize, catch (away up), pluck, pull, take (by force).
From the above you can see the words for “rapture” and “resurrection” do not mean the same things. These two events, although related, are not only different but may actually happen at different times. Paul does not tell us the timing of these things, only the events. As he told the Thessalonians in the next chapter,
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night (5:1-2 NKJV).
Paul is speaking about the first resurrection, that is the one Jesus called the resurrection of the righteous, on the future Feast of Trumpets.
Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you” (Luke 14:14 NLT).
The first and second resurrection are separated by two thousand years. As Revelation says,
And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years (Rev 20:4-6 NKJV).
The resurrection has two main parts to it. The first part is acquiring a new physical body. The believers who have died are already in heaven with the Lord and have spiritual bodies, but they do not have the new physical immortal body. Thus, the resurrection is not about going to heaven and getting a spiritual body; many are already there and already have that.
The main word for “resurrection” means to “stand again.” It refers to standing again on the earth. When they get to heaven they are not standing there “again” since it is the first time they have been there. The dead in Christ are already standing in heaven, but they have not yet been resurrected. Many church folk believe that the resurrection means going to heaven forever. No, it means coming back to earth in a glorified body. The rapture or “catching away” (harpazo) takes us from earth to heaven, then the resurrection takes us from heaven to earth. The rapture is the bridegroom taking His bride out of the earth; the resurrection is the King coming back with his bride to rule and reign for a thousand years
The two resurrections are fairly well-known within the churches. What is not so well-known is that there are also two raptures. In the Thessalonian passage quoted above, Paul is speaking of the first resurrection; however, it is the second rapture that occurs then. The first rapture will have already taken place by that time.
The first rapture will have occurred about 3 ½ years before the time of the great Feast of Trumpets when the second rapture and first resurrection take place. The first rapture will be during the Passover season near the beginning of the Great Tribulation period. The first rapture is for the 144,000 who have made themselves ready for the coming of the Lord. That is, they have been purified and actually become righteous rather than just having the imputed righteousness of Jesus. Thus, God spares them from having to go through the Great Tribulation. The rest of the church needs to go through the Great Tribulation to get purified and attain their righteousness if they want to make the first resurrection. This is the main purpose of the Great Tribulation. For it is through afflictions that we are purified in Christ.
The first rapture will be when the Lord returns to take his first fruits as a thief in the night. This is a secret rapture or catching away.
But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into (Luke 12:39 NKJV).
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober (1 Thess. 5:1-6 NKJV).
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober (1 Thess. 5:1-6 NKJV).
“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame” (Rev. 16:15 NKJV).
There will be nothing secret about the second rapture. The book of Revelation makes clear that the Great Tribulation period will last only 3 ½ years. It spells this out in three ways: days, months, and years. Once the church realizes that first rapture has occurred, they will be counting this down like an indentured servant counting his days.
Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days (Rev. 12:6 NKJV).
The woman here is the church that missed the first rapture. 1260 days is about 3 ½ years.
And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months (Rev. 13:5 NKJV).
Forty-two months is 3 ½ years.
But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent (Rev 12:14 NKJV).
“Time and times and half a time” is a biblical expression from the book of Daniel that means 3 ½ years.
The good news is that if you miss the first rapture, you can still get ready in the 3 ½-year tribulation period and still catch the second rapture and first resurrection. I have written in detail on these things in my book Hidden Jewels from the Book of Revelation, if you desire more understanding on these things, including what it will take to make the first rapture and first resurrection.