By John LaVier
There is no prophetic word in the Bible more wonderful than that given to us in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. This passage is well known, but we quote it again:
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
What a great, grand, and glorious event is this—the rapture of the church. Every member of that church, saved during the past two thousand years, will be caught away in resurrection bodies and escorted to their heavenly home by the Lord Himself. There are three things mentioned in connection with this great event: (1) the shout of the Lord, (2) the voice of the archangel, and (3) the trump of God. Why should this be? We can understand the first, the shout of the Lord, for the fact that it is for His beloved and blood-bought church that he is coming, explains that. But why these attendant voices; the presence of which has caused some to discard this whole passage as having no relation to the church, the body of Christ? We feel that it is because this event will have far-reaching consequences.
With the dispensation of grace ended, and with the church no longer on the scene, God now returns to His end time program, the period between the rapture and the revelation. This period is marked by apostasy, antichrist, Armageddon, and the advent of Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords. God is now concluding man’s day and ushering in the Day of the Lord.
Mankind is divided into three circles in the dispensational program of God, as noted in 1 Corinthians 10:32, namely, the Church, the nation Israel, and the Gentiles, or the rest of mankind. In connection with each of these three the Lord is to have special glory. Therefore, we would suggest that all three of these circles are involved in this passage.
The Shout of the Lord
has to do particularly with the Church. By far the most of the members of that Church have already left this life by way of death and the grave. But every one such, together with those saints who are alive and remain, shall answer instantly to that assembling shout of the Lord. In an instant of time they will appear, radiant and glorious, in His presence. When the Lord stood at Lazarus’ grave, and cried with a loud voice, he that was dead came forth. Even so at that future shout of the Lord every sleeping saint will “come forth” from death’s domain. But whereas Lazarus was raised in the same kind of body he had before, and so died again, those raised at the rapture will be raised in glorified and deathless bodies. Then also the living saints will be changed and together with those gone before, will be caught away to be with Christ their Head in glory. This is the blessed hope of the Church; to hear the shout of the Lord; to be forever with him.
Forever with the Lord,
Amen, so let it be;
Life from the dead is in that word,
Here in the body pent,
Absent from Him I roam;
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent,
A day’s march nearer home.
The Voice of the Archangel
is Michael’s voice, and he is the angel who has the special care of Israel (see Daniel 10:13,21; 12:1; Jude 9; also Rev. 12:7). When the shout of the Lord breaks forth, it shall find an instant response in the Church. Michael’s voice will also be heard gathering Israel together. He will arise for this great work. This work will be much slower in its accomplishment. The devil and his angels will have to be cast down from heaven before the woman clothed with the sun can enter into her glory and inheritance (Rev. 12). And the people of Israel themselves will have to pass through the great tribulation, for “there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time,” but Michael will then stand up for them, and they shall be delivered (Dan. 12:1). The wheels will move more slowly for the deliverance of Israel than in the case of the Church but they will assuredly be set in motion in connection with that great shout of the Lord.
The Trump of God
has a wider application. It is with God that all men have to do. It might appear to the uninstructed observer that men can live as they please, without any regard for God, and do so with impunity; but the trump of God will break His long silence and end His longsuffering. It will signal the close of the day of grace. Things will be changed, and every creature will discover that they have to do with God in Judgment. The nations will not immediately appear before Him, for the wheels in their case will work even more slowly than those which bring about Israel’s deliverance. Yet the day will come when all nations shall be taken to the glorious throne of the Son of Man for judgment, “and He shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Matt. 25:32). The day is also coming that all the dead, small and great, shall stand before God; and Christ himself, as God, will be the Judge. “Because God has appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom he hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
The whole of God’s intentions in relation to the earth are held in abeyance until the Church is taken out of it, but when the shout of the Lord is heard, and the Church has been removed from the scene, then things will begin to move swiftly toward their fulfillment. The stage will then be set for the final great act in God’s drama of the ages, and so the voice of the archangel and the trump of God will be heard, thereby setting in operation the machinery that will bring about the deliverance of Israel, and the subjugation of all nations and men.