We Will Not All Sleep



John Hoole – January 1, 2012



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In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, we find the "Hall of Fame of Faith."


Hebrews 11:1-3 NIV


1       Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

2       This is what the ancients were commended for.

3       By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.


Following these introductory verses, we find a long list of those who were commended by God for their faith.


         Vs. 4        By faith, Abel...


         Vs. 5        By faith, Enoch...


         Vs. 7        By faith, Noah...


         Vs. 8        By faith, Abraham...


Let's read what is said about Enoch.


Hebrews 11:5 KJV


5       By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.


I used the King James Version because of its use of the word, "translated."  And some form of it is used three times in this verse.  This is a word often used to describe what happens at the Rapture.  In other translations, the word, "Taken," is used.  I also use this passage about Enoch to say that translating people from earth to heaven is not a new experience.  Although it happened rarely in the Old Testament, it did, in fact, happen twice.


One moment a man had an earthly body.  The next he was translated into a heavenly, immortal creature and taken to heaven.  This is how it happened to Enoch.  You can read his story recorded in Genesis 5.


Genesis 5:24 NIV


24     Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.


Enoch lived prior to the flood, being the 7th generation from the creation of Adam and Eve.  And the Bible tells us that he walked with God for 300 years after his son Methuselah was born, and God translated him into his presence.


Elijah, the great Hebrew prophet, was also translated by God.  He did not die, but God took him from earth to heaven in a whirlwind and a chariot of fire.  In this case, his disciple Elisha saw him go.  So we have another example of a Rapture, where, as Paul puts it, their corruptible bodies put on incorruption.  Then, as Paul also said, "Death has been swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54).


Again, the idea of the translation of saints to Heaven is not a new thought.  And, for Christians, that moment will happen when Christ descends from heaven with a shout.  Then, believers, both dead and alive, will rise to meet our Lord in the Air.


The ashes of their bodies - or elements, wherever they are, will be translated into a new and heavenly body and taken up to meet the Lord.  All living Christians will also be translated immediately with them to meet in the "clouds," and together they will "meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  It will be no difficulty for God to perform a translation for every believer in the space of a heartbeat.


The earliest mention of the Rapture for believers in the Church is found in John 14.


John 14:1-3 KJV


1       Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

2       In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

3       And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.


Ever since our Lord said these words, and promised to return. then going to His Father's house to prepare a place for His followers, believers have looked forward to being translated rather than seeing death.  This was mentioned by the apostle Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth.


1 Corinthians 15:50-52 NIV


50     I declare to you, brothers, 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.


The title of this lesson come from these verses.  "We will not all sleep - but we will all be changed."  This verse is often mounted over the door of church nurseries.


Thanks be to God that this is true of all followers of Christ.  When Christ descends from heaven, millions of believers still living will never die.  They will not have to face the "sting of death."  Along with those who have died, they will be translated into the very presence of Christ.  All believers of the church age will do an end-run on the grave, robbing the grim reaper of millions of victims.


The dead in Christ will be resurrection, while those still living will be translated, that is, changed.  It is this latter truth that is referred to as a "MYSTERY."  I want to take a few notes from our last lesson which were not given because we ran out of time.  I think I need, once again, to define the word "mystery" as used in the New Testament.


A mystery in the New Testament is not some difficult puzzle to solve or unravel.  It is not even something that is hard to figure out.  A mystery is a truth that has never been revealed up to the time when it is unveiled, and mankind could never have figured out on his own apart from divine revelation.


Ephesians 3:5 defines a mystery as that "which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit."  Verse 9 of the same chapter adds that a mystery is that "which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things." 


Colossians 1:26 further defines a New Testament mystery: "the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but now has been manifested to His saints."  The fact that believers would be caught up to heaven without dying was a brand new truth that had been hidden in God up to that time.  It was a mystery - a totally new truth that had never been disclosed by God until the apostle wrote about it.


As I mentioned in our last lesson, the first letter the apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica was written before either of his letters to the church at Corinth.  But if you were reading the Bible straight through, you would come to 1 Corinthians first.  And if you read your Bible straight through from Genesis 1 to 1 Corinthians 14, you would correctly conclude that the only way to get to heaven in your glorified body would be to die and be resurrected.


But when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15, that all changed.  The Lord unveiled through Paul the glorious mystery that a whole generation of believers will be transformed without tasting the sting of physical death.  Millions of believers will be translated into their new, glorified bodies in less time than it takes to blink your eye.  This is the glorious mystery of the Rapture.  May we be the generation to experience this breathtaking event!!


Flesh and blood cannot cope with the challenges or enjoy the delights of heaven's glories.  Only a changed body can.  Instead of passing through the death process, they will be transformed in an "atom" of time.  That is, this will transpire in the smallest fraction of a second.


By a special miracle, living believers will be changed "in a twinkling of an eye," as they rise to meet the Lord in the air.  Though not resurrected from the dead, they will be completely translated to prepare them for that eternal relationship in God's house.


Let’s keep looking at this passage a moment more.  Paul makes several points in this short Passage.




He is speaking about death.  In the New Testament, death is often described as “sleep”.


Let's quickly review what Paul tells us in this passage.


The first point Paul makes is that not all Christians will die.  This is consistent with the fact that many believers will be alive in the final generation when Christ comes for his followers.


The second point Paul makes is that the blowing of the trumpet will accompany this Rapture.


The third point Paul makes is that Christ will first resurrect the bodies of those believers who have already died.


The fourth point is that the translation of the living believers, takes place in the “twinkling of an eye.”


The fifth and final point is that all believers – both dead and alive – will be changed into their new immortal, resurrection bodies.


I now want to discuss the "mystery" in this passage a little more.  It should be clear that it is NOT a mystery that saints who die will be raised again from the dead.  That is mentioned a number of times in the Old Testament.  It was over this one point that the two major religious sects in Jesus' time debated.  The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection - the Pharisees did believe.  In the oldest book in the Bible, Job declares that in the "latter days....in my flesh I shall see God."  The resurrection was not a hidden truth.


Also, the idea that there would be saints living at the time the Messiah would come to set up His kingdom was also something taught in the Old Testament.  The viewpoint of all Old Testament prophecies is that saints on earth at the time of the second advent will enter the millennial kingdom alive, as mortals, "in the flesh."  Old Testament prophecies speak of mortal people tilling the soil, raising crops, having children born to them, during this future reign of the Messiah.


The idea of a generation of believers that will not die and yet be translated from mortal to immortal, is a mystery truth that is not mentioned in the Old Testament.  And there are no passages in either the Old or New Testaments which speak of the translation of saints occurring at the second coming of Christ to set up His kingdom.


We are told, in Daniel 12:1-2, when the resurrection of Old Testament saints occurs, and yet, there is no mention of the living having their moral bodies changed to immortal.  And we are also told, in Revelation 20:4, when the Tribulations saints are resurrected, but again, there is no mention of living saints whose bodies are changed immortal.  To say it another way, there has been no prophecy for Old Testament and Tribulation saints, which promises a translation for those living at the coming of Christ.


This makes the entire event, called the Rapture, a mystery, which was never mentioned in the Old Testament.  In a previous lesson, we investigated the passage in Ephesians 3 and elsewhere, that the Church is also called a "mystery."  This is something not mentioned ever in the Old Testament.  Everything about the Church is a New Testament revelation.  That includes its ending on earth – the Rapture – as well.


The apostles and the church of the first three centuries whole-heartedly expected that Christ would return for His church during their lifetime.  The Blessed Hope that motivated the first-century church was the expectation of an imminent return of Christ.  They believed that Christ could come at any moment.


There is yet another truth mentioned to happen at the rapture of the Church that also is never mentioned in the Old Testament.  A few minutes ago, we mentioned 1 Thessalonians was the first of all Paul’s letters.


1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 NIV


13     Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.

14     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.


Do you see it?  Verse 14 tells us that when Jesus comes back at the Rapture, He is going to bring with Him those believers who have previously died.  That truth also is never mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament.


In what sense will Jesus bring with Him those who have fallen asleep?  This refers to Christians who have died and the expression of falling asleep is used to emphasize the fact that their death is temporary.


When a Christian dies, his/her soul goes immediately to heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8).  On the occasion of the Rapture of the church, Paul declares that Jesus would bring with Him the souls of those who have fallen asleep.  They would be brought with Jesus and reunited with their resurrected and changed bodies.


Now let’s summarize what we have learned thus far about the Rapture of the Church.  Let’s put what we know into the sequence in which they will occur.


1.      Christ will literally descend bodily from Heaven with a shout.


2.      He will be bringing all the spirits of the Christians who have died.


3.      The voice of the archangel will be heard.


4.      A trumpet blast will occur.


5.      The bodies of all Christians who have died will be raised from their graves, and will, in an instant, “in the twinkling of an eye,” be transformed into incorruptible bodies.


6.      The spirits of those who have died will be reunited with their now immortal bodies,……


7.      Those believer alive at the time of the Rapture will never experience death, but their bodies will also be changed into new immortal, resurrection bodies.


8.      Next there will be a brief reunion between those who were dead and those who were alive as they proceed upward.


9.      All believers making up the Church, and having their bodies changed to be like Christ’s glorified body, finally meet Christ in the air.


10.    Thereafter, these people making up the Bride of Christ will never die, and will always be with Him wherever Christ is.  Actually, all of this takes place in a very short timeframe.




To conclude, let me try to give a description of what comes to mind when I think of the Rapture.  In 2 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul speaks of being caught up to Paradise.  The word paradise denotes a real, literal place of rest, beauty, and delight, such as can be enjoyed in our body.


On the occasion of Paul’s visit to paradise, he did not know whether he was experiencing the visit in or out of his body.  The inference is that the place to which he was caught away was one that he could thoroughly have enjoyed in a literal, physical sense.  He made no attempt to describe the place.  He simply said that what he experienced there was “unspeakable” or, as some have suggested, “untranslatable.”  It was life in a wholly different dimension, but not so different he felt strange or out of place there.


All this confirms the words of our Lord, when He said in John 14, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.”  While it is true that we cannot fully imagine what God has prepared for those who love Him, the place He will take us to will not be so different as to make us out of place.


Ever after that experience, Paul had what he called “a desire to depart, and to be with Christ.”  The foretaste he got of the glory land had made it clear to him that what awaits us on the other side “is far better” than anything down here.


The great hope of the church is that Christ will come and rapture us to Heaven before death comes.  But even if death comes first, we shall be resurrected and given a glorified body like His (Phil 3:21).  If we die and our bodies return to the dust from which God created it, one of these days the Lord will descend from Heaven with a shout, and the “dead in Christ will rise.”  From their grave they will come forth – up from the sea, up from the sod.  Those who fell “asleep” in Jesus will be gloriously changed.  They will rise to meet Him.


But, there is another group who rise with those who have been resurrected.  “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.”  We too shall be changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52).  Our mortal bodies will put on immortality.  The chains that bind us to this world will be loosed.  We will leap skyward, fitted in an instant for the dimensions of eternity.


Picturing the Rapture


To help us picture what will happen to living believers at the Rapture, imagine a mixture of metals – gold, silver, copper, iron, lead and zinc.  Scatter those metals on the ground – even bury some of them beneath the soil.  Then take a powerful magnet, and pass it over that site.


Immediately, one kind of metal will leap skyward to meet that magnet in the air.  The magnet will leave behind the silver, the gold, the copper, the lead, and the zinc.  It will draw to itself just one kind of metal, the iron.  Why does the magnet attract only the iron?  Because the iron has the same nature as the magnet.


It will be the same way when the Lord comes for His church.  And He will attract only one kind of person.  It will be not necessarily the rich or the poor, the religious, the respectable, the moral.  It will not necessarily be the church member or the theologian.  Jesus will appear in the sky, and everyone who has the life of Christ – His nature will be attracted and drawn upward to Him.  All who are “in Christ” will be caught up.  Those who have no part with Him, who don’t share His properties, will be left behind.


He is coming for those who are “in Him,” for those who have personally trusted Him and accepted Him as their Savior from sin.  If you have never accepted Him, you can do it right now.  Then you will be certain that you will be part of this great “catching up.”