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When the Apostle Paul wrote of the second coming of Christ, he used terminology from the book of Exodus, using Moses as a type of Christ. His quotes would have been quite familiar with the Church in that day, and so Paul did not take the time to explain it to them in his letters. But today we need some explanation.
1 Thess. 4:13-18 read,
"13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep[i.e., the dead], that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope."
This passage is about the dead and the hope of resurrection. Those who have no hope are those who do not believe that the dead will be raised. In Paul's time, these were the Epicureans.
"14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus [the dead in Christ] will God bring with Him."
Because the dead believers are part of the body of Christ, they will be brought back with Him. Paul does not explain precisely what he means, other than to make this point.
"15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which have fallen asleep."
In other words, the dead are raised first, as Paul says shortly, and the believers who are alive in that generation will undergo their transformation after the dead have been raised. Paul is dealing with the ORDER of events, but says nothing further about timing.
From this point on, Paul uses Moses as the example, though he does not mention him by name.
"16 For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout [keleusma, "word of command"], with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first."
Paul had a number of Bible passages from which to paint this picture.
Exodus 19:16-20 says,
"16 And it came to pass ON THE THIRD DAY in the morning that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and THE VOICE OF THE TRUMPET, exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. 17 And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. 18 And Mount Sinai was altogether on smoke, because THE LORD DESCENDED UPON IT in fire. . . 19 And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice. 20 And THE LORD CAME DOWN upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mount; and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and MOSES WENT UP."
This was actually the first "coming of Christ." It occurred on the day that came to be known as Pentecost. It was accompanied by clouds and the voice (sound) of the trumpet. Most important, Moses "went up" to meet the Lord.
Of course, Moses did not leave the ground, yet he provides a type of ascension. (Instead of using the term "rapture," we should use the more biblical word, "ascension"). In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit (representing Christ) descended, and the disciples ascended into a greater awareness and spiritual authority from their previous position.
Yet none of them left the earth. And perhaps more importantly, the dead were not raised at that time. Thus, Pentecost was only a partial fulfillment of the second coming of Christ. It was an "earnest" (downpayment) only.
The greater "coming of Christ" is at the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles. It will be preceded by the feast of Trumpets, at which time the dead will be raised.
Moses went up and down the mount eight times. These trips, like the eight miraculous signs in John, represent the eight days of the feast of Tabernacles. The fourth and fifth trips up the mount are similar to the fourth and fifth signs in John, which I discussed in yesterday's web log.
The fourth trip up the mount is recorded in Exodus 20:21. This is where he received most of the laws beyond the Ten Commandments. He returns in Exodus 24:4.
The fifth trip is recorded in Exodus 24:9, where the 70 elders went up the mount and "saw the God of Israel" (vs. 10) and "did eat and drink" (vs. 11). Thus, the fifth trip up the mount is comparable to Jesus being joined to His disciples in the middle of the lake.
There is no specific statement telling us that the 70 elders returned, but it is implied. Then a few verses later, in Ex. 24:15, 16 we read about Moses' sixth trip up the mount:
"And Moses went up into the mount, and A CLOUD covered the mount. And the glory of the Lord abode upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it SIX DAYS, and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud."
Notice that this time Moses was not called up until the seventh day. In the first example, the Lord came down upon Sinai on the THIRD DAY. Now it is the SEVENTH DAY. The third day prophesies of the third millennium from Christ's birth; the seventh day refers to the seventh millennium from Adam.
"18 And Moses went up into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mount; and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights."
Once again, we see an example of Moses ascending into the mount into the clouds. The only significant difference is that Moses ascended and descended eight times in order to represent the eight days of Tabernacles. Yet these ascensions overlay on each other to give us pieces of the picture of Christ's coming and our ascension to meet Him "in the air" and "in the clouds."
One final example: Moses' eighth trip up the mount is recorded in Ex. 34:4, 5,
"And he hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and Moses rose up early in the morning and went up unto Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. And the Lord descended in the cloud."
Moses "rose up early in the morning." This foreshadows the resurrection of the dead as a prelude to Tabernacles. When Moses returned from this final trip, his face was glowing, and he had to put on a veil in order to talk to the people. The tables of stone also signify the law being written on his heart.
So each of these examples use terminology familiar to Paul when he penned 1 Thess. 4:13-18.
"17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up [harpazo] with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words."
Keep in mind that Paul was primarily dealing with the fact that the dead would be raised. Incidental to his discussion is the idea of Christ's coming and the events concerning those who are alive in that day. That is, he puts the resurrection into its proper context of the main events prophesied in the autumn feast days, but leaves out any reference to the Day of Atonement that occurs between Trumpets and Tabernacles.
The one concept that I want to set forth is that the resurrection is inseparable from the feast of Trumpets, and meeting the Lord in the air (ascension) is inseparable from the feast of Tabernacles. We cannot divorce these concepts without doing serious damage to our understanding of the second coming of Christ.