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In Ephesians Paul speaks of resurrection in "spiritual" term:

[Eph 2:6 NLT] 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.

Does that imply that the description in 1 Thessalonians 4 is to be interpreted as a suite of metaphors or spiritual events?:

[1Th 4:16-17 KJV] 16 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.

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Excellent question and perfectly harmonious passages:

Firstly Ephesians 2 is not metaphorical or figurative. It is spiritual, and that does not mean it requires interpretation. For example how does Jesus ascend into Heaven by going up into a cloud? When does he arrive? Past Pluto? It does not need interpretation, simply recognition that the Spiritual realm is not understood with natural explanations but supernatural.

Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened (συνεζωοποιησεν) us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised (συνηγειρεν) us up (together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Eph 2:5-6)

You rightly identified the Spiritual application, but to emphasise why it is spiritual:

  1. It is from our spiritual condition: "dead in sins"
  2. It is in a Spiritual place: heavenly places
  3. It is in the aorist tense which though a past event does not specify its completion: has quickened, has raised up. So it it true now for those in Christ to be quickened with Christ.

Most importantly is to whom it applies: those in Christ Jesus.

So what about those that are in Christ Jesus that dies (falls asleep in Paul's language)?

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again (ανεστη), even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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 prevent them which are asleep. 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 (αναστησονται) first: 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1Th 4:13-18)

Notice the same conditions do not apply for the exclusively spiritual application but rather a Physical and Spiritual encounter is here spoken of. These are not mutually exclusive: Jesus ascended into heaven (a Spiritual place) with a physical body. So here we notice...

  1. The raising is from a physical conditions: asleep (physically dead) in Christ. We know this because a comparison is made with Jesus who was Physically dead and rose again. And those that die with no hope.
  2. It is in the place between heaven and earth: The dead in Christ are meeting him in the air while he "descend from heaven".
  3. The tense for the verb is future tense and yet it applies to all in Christ: shall rise

It is also then interesting to notice different Greek prefixes to different root words: Ephesians: συνεγείρω = σύν + ἐγείρω = with + to waken Thessalonians: ἀνίστημι = ανα + ἵστημι = up + to stand

There is a clear spiritual sense in which we are "woken with Christ" and a definite physical sense in which we will "stand up" if we are in Christ.

There is no reason to assume any metaphorical or figurative application in either passage like you would with a parable or symbolic vision. Spiritual or supernatural, yes. In 1 Thessalonians 4, even though it is a physical experience, there are naturally inexplicable things like descending in the cloud, being caught up, angels etc., this is a spiritual manifestation on earth - it is SUPERnatural.

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Look at the context.

[Eph 2:4-6 NKJV] 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

The context of Ephesians 2:6 is Salvation and a spiritual life given to the spiritually dead.

[1Th 4:13-17 NKJV] 13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

In Ephesians, the context is spiritual death and spiritual regeneration. In Thessalonians, the context is literal death and literal regeneration.

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  • So two different events? Two different resurrections?
    – Ruminator
    Dec 29 '18 at 0:49
  • @Ruminator correct. The first event is salvation in which we are spiritually resurrected, and the second event is the rapture in which we are physically resurrected. Dec 29 '18 at 1:59
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No, 1 Thessalonians 4 is not to be interpreted as a suite of metaphors or spiritual events, quite the opposite as a matter of fact.

Acts 1:9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;

11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

The two angels told the apostles that He would come in the same way that He left. They were speaking with Him face to face, and watched Him physically taken up in a cloud. When He returns, the dead that are in Him will arise in their glorified bodies and meet Him in the air, just as He left. Y'shua was able to eat after He was resurrected from the dead in His glorified body, these shall be able to as well, physically... and so much more.

The resurrection of the dead is our hope, as it has been to the Patriarchs throughout the ages. That is what I Thessalonians 4:16-17 is speaking of. A physical resurrection and Paul is continuing along that line of thought here.

Isaiah 26:19 Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

You wanted to compare it with Ephesians 2:4-6 and we should see it through the context of verse 1

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

We know that these verses are speaking spiritually, because you are not physically dead right now as you read this, if I am not mistaken.

So no, the Spirit guides you to know whether He is speaking physically or spiritually, or even both in His Word. He gives wisdom and logic as well, to know and discern the difference.

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  • Why would you vote me down, you childishly do that any time that anyone opposes your false doctrine Ruminator, **Johm 18:23 23 Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me? That is lame and I see why most avoid answering your questions. Dec 29 '18 at 21:21
  • For the record, calling his doctrine false is no better than his voting down your answer because he believes something different, if that's why he or someone else voted down your answer (though I don't see why else someone would). Just a tip, you should place a > before your Bible passages to format them as a yellow blockquote. That will make your answer more readable. Also, make sure you put an @ before the name of someone you want to tag in a comment. Dec 30 '18 at 23:12
  • @ElliotThomas Thank you very much for the info, it looks much better! I proved through the scriptures the fallacy of his doctrine and was down voted before I ever posted my comment with the words "false doctrine". Dec 30 '18 at 23:27
  • I just came across this rant. I never voted on your post up or down. Perhaps it was the men in the black helicopters?! :)
    – Ruminator
    Sep 18 '20 at 18:24

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