|A265 : by Tony Garland |
It is my view that Paul’s comments in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Philippians 3:11 provide solid evidence that Paul considered the Rapture to be a special type of resurrection—not something distinct. While it is true that those who are still living and taken at the Rapture never experience death, they are still transformed. Their fallen, earthly bodies—which are subject to decay and on their way towards death—undergo glorification, just as those who have died previously. In both cases, the body which was before “in corruption” is “raised in incorruption” (1Cor. 15:42). That Paul includes himself in both categories provides us with good evidence that we should not make too much of a distinction between the Rapture and resurrection. In both cases, God overcomes death/decay and transforms our bodies into glorious, powerful habitations. That some of those bodies had passed the point of death and experienced the ultimate physical dispersion of decay whereas other bodies, still alive, have experienced less decay is not a distinction worth placing much weight on.
Another indication that placing too much distinction on resurrection vs. Rapture leads to confusion is your observation about the two main categories which all of mankind will find themselves in: either the first resurrection (believers) or the second resurrection (unbelievers). To overemphasize distinctions and exempt those alive at the time of the Rapture from the first category creates thorny theological issues—a yellow flag that doing so is heading down the wrong interpretive path!
This brings up another topic in general: when to make distinctions on fine points in the text and when not to make distinctions! Problems exist on either side. For example, failure to carefully handle distinctions in the text can cause one to gloss over important differences (e.g., between the church and Israel). On the other hand, making too much of minor differences leads to errors in interpretation (e.g., hyper-dispensationalisma).
It sounds to me that the person who challenged the idea that the Rapture is a resurrection falls into the camp of making too much of a minor aspect and difference in timing, but your knowledge of other related passages is steering you back on the correct road: the Rapture is a resurrection: simply one that happens to involve living saints. Although we may tend to think about resurrection always concerning raising the dead, the larger picture would emphasize a transformation between that which is tainted with sin and subject to death (whether having died yet or not) vs. that which is glorious, perfect, and eternal.
I hope that helps - Tony