In a recent review of I Thes. 4:16-17 in comparison with I Cor. 15:51-57, it became apparent that the differences between the two passages might be a little more extensive than what I had seen previously. As is discussed here on the Promise website, I Cor 15 addresses the resurrection and changing of living believers, but contains no departure, while I Thes. 4 addresses the resurrection and presents a teaching on the departure, but contains no changing of living believers. It is of particular interest that I Thes. 4 does not include the word mystery (I believe because this was not new information being revealed - Psa. 27:4-5; Isa. 26:19-21), while I Cor. 15 does contain the word (because for the first time mankind was being told that there would be a group of people who would be resurrected without having died first). Like so many, I had lumped the two passages together for many years, but on that day I recognized that some additional information was available if a closer look was given to the similarities and differences between the two passages.
These are the two passages of scripture:
1 Thess 4:16-17 "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: 17 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."
1 Cor 15:51-53 "Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."
It is evident that the primary subject being addressed in both passages is the resurrection, and further, that the resurrection is initiated by the sound of the trump of God or the last trump. I Cor. 15:51 adds that the resurrection will include living believers.
From these few verses we are able to understand a little more about this rapture that we are all excitedly waiting for. The similarities between both passages are resurrection and trumpet. We can therefore understand that the resurrection/changing will occur with the sound of the trump of God.
But I Thes. 4:16 indicates three sounds to be heard at that time:
It is interesting that the trump of God is listed third, but it would seem that the trump will actually be heard first: the dead will need to be raised and the living believers changed prior to departure from earth (this human body just won’t fly no matter how hard I try). If this third sound will be the first to actually be heard, it seems to me that the voice of the archangel remains in second place while the shout of the Lord will take the third and final place because with that voice we WILL leave.
There has been a lot of speculation over the years regarding what the two voices would say. I have long believed that Jesus will say, "Come up hither," (Rev. 4:1) and further, because he is God, he just might call each one of us by name.
But what about this voice of the archangel? Most students of prophecy understand that the word translated as ‘caught up’ (rapture) is the Greek word harpazo (har-pad'-zo); NT:726; from a derivative of NT:138; to seize (in various applications): KJV - catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force).
Now, according to that definition and the alternate translations of the word, the resurrected believers and the changed living believers are literally going to be seized from this earth. Probably most of us knew that.
But that raises a question: since we are very willing to go, why will we be seized? This is where I believe the voice of the archangel comes in. I do believe the enemy, Satan himself, is going to try to stop the departure of the resurrected church to heaven. Why would he do this? It makes no sense - he has always tried to kill the believers so it seems he would be glad to see us go. However, this departure is preceded by the resurrection so it signals that his time is limited and can actually be numbered: seven years to try to destroy humanity, one thousand years in prison, a "little season" to deceive one last time, then straight to the lake of fire.
I think these facts may smack him right in the face and he will attempt a hip shot to try to stop the process. But the archangel has something to say. Jude 9 tells us, "Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee."
I have no idea why there was a dispute about the body of Moses, maybe Satan wanted to preserve it for worship or to start up some pagan religion, but the fact is God himself buried Moses close to Bethpeor in Moab and his exact burial spot remained a secret (Deut. 34:4-7). From these two passages we do understand that something unusual occurred regarding Moses’ body, and God, Satan and Michael were involved.
So it is entirely possible that there will be a contention between Satan and the archangel regarding the bodies of believers, no longer dead or earthly human, in which Satan will not be the victor.
The Bible says we are going up. We will be forcefully removed from the earth, but we are GOING UP!!
This possibility of the resurrection/changing, followed by the voice of the archangel followed by the shout of the Lord, leaves open the possibility that, prior to the catching away, the changed believers may have insight that no other humans have ever had. We may actually observe a major battle in the angelic warfare that has been occurring at least since Eden, this one involving Michael restraining Satan while Jesus removes his people from this earth.
If we return to I Cor. 15: 51-53 and I Thes. 4:16-17, we find that there is no description of the speed with which we believers will leave this earth. I Cor. 15:52 does indeed tell us that we will change from mortal to immortal in a period of time so small it cannot be divided any smaller, but neither passage describes the speed of the departure. This tends to open the possibility that we might be resurrected, standing on planet earth and watching while this spiritual war occurs. If so, this does not necessarily mean that those who will be left behind will be able to see us and the resurrected believers. It should be understood that at the moment of the changing our bodies will be like Jesus’ body (click here for more info) and will no longer be limited to this earthly space/time continuum.
Scripture identifies Michael as the great prince of Israel (Dan. 12:1) and that he will be involved in Israel’s defense during the tribulation (Dan. 12:1; Rev. 12:7). It could be that the battle during the rapture is a result of Satan having been reminded that even though he doesn’t believe it, the scriptures prophesy a very bad end for him, and the days leading up to that end will have then begun.