D. M. ASKS:
I am perplexed about I Cor. 15:51, 52 and John 14:1-3, as regards the rapture. Dr. Thomas ice [a recent guest on the television program] feels that Jn. 14:1-3 speaks of the rapture. Here is my confusion. Paul wrote:
“51 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” (I Cor. 15:51,52 KJV).
Our Lord [through Paul] specifically used the word “mystery” to defend the concept of the rapture. Doesn’t the word “mystery” in the Bible mean something that has never yet been revealed? If John 14:1-3 is the rapture, then Jesus was not accurate in telling Paul that He was disclosing a true secret. I believe this mystery reveals that when Jesus returns in His [Second Coming], He will gather his 12 disciples to be with Him in His temple – His Father’s house.
In general, it is held that when Jesus speaks to his disciples in John 14, His discourse at the last Passover with them constitutes a general statement to the Church, the Body of Christ, as a whole. That is, He was laying out His plan for this single body, including everyone from the first disciples to the last person saved. Christ spoke prior to the first Pentecost, the birth of the Church and the dispensation of the Holy Spirit later. In John 14:3, when He says, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself … ,” He isn’t speaking of His “Second Coming,” as expressed in Revelation 19, when He comes in vengeance with the armies of heaven, to smash the beast, the kings and their armies. Instead, He’s speaking words of comfort to them, and to the entire body of Christ.
The real “mystery” – the secret, as you put it – is that sometime before He comes in judgment, He will come for His body, the Church. The word “mystery” is used many times in the New Testament, and each time it is used, it describes something that was once a secret, but now, has been revealed through the leading of the Holy Spirit. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is speaking of the resurrection of the Church, not Jesus’ final, victorious coming.