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And the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Who are these dead in Christ?

The question might be changed to who are the "in Christ?" Whoever they are, they are those who have died in Christ. In the context they were the Christians who had died at Thessalonia. Paul had taught them that the Lord could come at any time. They were waiting for Him. "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come." 1 Thessalonians 1:10. In the meantime, some had died. So he wrote about them in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 concerning those that had died. They would be raised first and then the living believers would be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air.

The phrase "in Christ," is only a New Testament phrase. It does not appear to apply to the saved in the Old Testament. God made promises to the saints in the Old Testament to give them a kingdom on earth. That kingdom will come and it is described in Revelation 20:3 as being 1000 years in length, in one form, and then eventually continuing on eternally. This kingdom will not be ready in the time which is spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. The rapture of the saints and then a period of seven years of tribulation on earth before the kingdom.

There would be no purpose for the resurrection of the Old Testament saints at the rapture. It would be more in keeping with the prophetic calendar to place their resurrection here: "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." Revelation 20:4-6.

All comments and questions to: Harold Smith

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Updated July 2009, by Shelly Allen