When we read of our blessed hope and the glorious appearing, or we read in first Thessalonians four, we say, When? How? Why? What? Why is God going to do this? And when will it come in the scheme of things? And we'll only understand that if we read the Apostle Paul. He's the only one who knew. Peter didn't know it. James didn't know it. Barnabas didn't know it. God gave it the apostle of a new people -- a new creation. Only Paul tells us that “the Lord will descend from heaven with a shout, with a voice of the archangel, the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. And we who are alive and remain [who are in Christ], will be caught up together with and to meet the Lord in the air. And so shall we ever be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words.” The church age will end right on schedule. And I want to show you from 1st Corinthians 15, the longest text in the Bible on the resurrection. If you want to understand resurrection, it's a good text to get into starting in 1Co 15:50 “This I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” Now, this is interesting because remember, Paul is arguing for a bodily resurrection, and yet he says, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”
1st Corinthians 15:50 continues, “Neither does corruption, inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery.” How can you define “mystery?” It is the revelation that God gave to the Apostle Paul regarding the church. No one before Paul knew the mystery. Not even the apostles and the prophets of his time did not fully comprehend. God chose to give this revelation a mystery, never revealed all the way through history until Paul came on the scene. God chose Paul to be the prototype of the church age believer, so that we could be instructed in who we are, what our provisions are, why we are here, what is the goal going forward, and to understand the age in which we live -- the church age. The church age is for the church, and the church age is for church age truth.
Paul says, “I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep. Who's “we?” -- The Church. Those who are in Christ. 1st Corinthians 15 continues, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.” Those who are dead are going to be raised and we who are alive are going to be changed. Sounds like another passage Paul wrote, doesn't it? 1st Thessalonians Chapter Four is consistent in his teaching. “For this corruptible must put on end corruption and this mortal must put on immortality. So, when this corruptible is put on in corruption and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written. Death is swallowed up in victory. Oh, death. Where is your sting? Oh, Hades. Where is your victory? The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
What does Paul tell us? An accurate understanding of the Rapture of the Church will give you stability and strength for life in a troubled world. This is a very, very valuable teaching. We not only have to know how the church started. We must know how the church ends. Because it's a proper understanding of the working of God and a trust in his faithfulness to do what He said He will do that gives us the ability to plant our feet in a world that is shifting and shaking. And when the wind and the waves of life are raging and we can stand secure and we can stand in the peace that we have in Christ because we know who we are, we know where we've come from, we know where we're going.
The Olivet Discourse -- Jesus' Roadmap for the future, is one of the three major discourses (sermons) of Jesus. They include:
1. The Sermon on the Mount/Galilee Discourse (Matthew 5–7)
2. The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24–25; Mark 13; Luke 21
3. The Upper Room Discourse (John 13–17)
Each of these messages is aimed at a specific period of history, which we call a dispensation. They lay out God’s dispensational plan, like a road map, from the time of the crucifixion to the end of time. The Sermon on the Mount was directed to the generation in which Jesus lived and was His platform as King—if Israel would receive Him. Obviously, they rejected Him as their King. However, this will be the basis of Jesus’ administration during the 1,000-year Kingdom Age (Millennium).
Then, the Olivet Discourse was aimed at the consequences of Israel’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah, and anticipated the destruction of the nation (70 A.D.) and the final Tribulation period. Remember that the Church Age is an intercalation—meaning an insertion, like a parenthesis, into the Age of Israel. This means that with the Rapture of the Church, the Tribulation picks up where 70 A.D. leaves off. This is why the Church Age is called a “mystery” (Rom. 11:25; 16:25; Eph. 3:1–13; Col. 1:26–27), which is a graduate course to “the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).
Finally, the Upper Room Discourse was directed toward the Church Age, which began at Pentecost and would continue to the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13–18). The uniqueness of this Age is summarized by Paul’s phrase “in Christ,” and all of the elements involved in what we call “positional truth”—our total union with Christ and the indwelling of His Spirit in us, which occurs nowhere else in history. With the removal of the Body of Christ, the Church, Israel would again become the focus of God’s working on this Earth (Romans 9–11; Revelation 6–19).