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
(1 Thessalonians 4:16)
Last time, by God’s grace, we focused on verse 17 of First Thessalonians chapter 4. We learnt that the clouds represents the presence of God and the air represents the spiritual realm of the earth. We understood that to be part of those who are caught up to meet the Lord in the air, we need to always remain in the clouds, in God’s presence, and allow Him to put His laws into our hearts and write them in our minds.
Now, we will focus on verse 16 to learn something very interesting. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 reads:
“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.” [KJV]
Verse 16 tells us that our Lord will descend from heaven. Meaning, His journey begins from heaven. Then verse 17 says that we will meet Him in the air. Meaning, His journey concludes in the air. But the fact is that it’s not just a journey. It’s a progressive take-over. It’s like the coming of the sun in the morning. As the sun approaches the darkness begins to fade away because of the sun’s light until the sun’s light completely takes over. So also, as our Lord is descending from heaven to the air, He is actually progressively taking over from the powers of darkness. But this will make more sense when we realize that the heaven and the air are different spiritual realms. There are three spiritual realms from heaven to the air. The heaven our Lord is coming from is the third and highest spiritual realm [as Paul calls it] because there the Kingdom of God is fully established and His glory is fully shown. But as He descends, He takes-over the other two spiritual realms¾the air being the final one He will take-over. We will now proceed to discuss these three spiritual realms, and we trust God to help us. Amen.
The Three Spiritual Realms – from heaven to the air
We should know that there are actually three spiritual realms, counting from heaven to the air. The highest of these three spiritual realms is heaven, and it is also known as the third heaven, or paradise. We can find this in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 which reads:
“1 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago, whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows, such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man, whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” [NKJV]
In this passage, Paul referred to heaven as the third heaven to show that it is the highest spiritual realm. Highest in the sense that it is the most glorious spiritual realm: the realm where the Kingdom of God is fully established, the will of God is perfectly done, and the glory of the King is greatly shown. Now, because he called it the third heaven, we know that there are two lower spiritual realms. These two spiritual realms came into existence when God created the heaven and earth of this world. We should keep in mind that when God created this world, He created both a physical and spiritual world. Our physical bodies exist in the physical world, while our spirits exist in the spiritual world. Just as the physical world has a heaven and an earth, so also the spiritual world has an upper and a lower realm. The “upper” in spiritual context simply means a realm of higher authority. So the upper realm in the spiritual world is the position of spiritual authority over the lower realm, and this lower realm is the air. It is called the air because it is the spiritual equivalent of the physical space filled with air: the space below the clouds. Physically speaking, this space filled with air is where all general human activity takes place. Similarly, the lower spiritual realm, the air, is where all human spirits exist [except those who are seated with Christ in the third heaven].
We can learn more about the upper and lower realms of this world from Genesis 1:6-7. It reads:
“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.  And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.” [KJV]
From this passage, the upper realm of this world is the one above the firmament, while the lower realm is the one below the firmament. The firmament is essentially made up of the clouds. As such, the upper realm, physically speaking, is the one above the clouds, while the lower realm is the one below the clouds; and as we know, it is this lower realm [below the clouds] that is filled with air.
But our main desire is to learn about the spiritual upper and lower levels of this world. Romans 1:20 tells us that we can use the visible things that God has created to understand the invisible things [the spiritual things]. So, to understand the spiritual realms of this world, we can look at how God set the physical realms. Genesis 1:16-18 says:
“And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: He made the stars also. 17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.” [KJV]
From this passage we see that God set the sun, moon and stars in the upper realm of this world. And the reason He put them there is so that they can rule over the lower realm and influence it with their light. This therefore gives us a clue to understand that just as the physical upper realm is the place of authority and influence over the physical realm, so also the spiritual upper realm is the place of spiritual authority over the spiritual lower realm. This spiritual upper realm is the spiritual heaven of this world. And we can also call it the spiritual second heaven, since the third heaven is of greater authority than it. As for the spiritual lower realm of this world, it is the spiritual realm Paul referred to as the air, and we may also call it the spiritual first heaven. These are the three spiritual realms from heaven [the third heaven] to the air [the first heaven]. The Kingdom of God is already fully established in heaven [the third heaven]. But the plan is not for the Kingdom to only be established in heaven. Our Lord Jesus taught us to pray saying:
“… Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. 10 Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” [Matthew 6:9-10, KJV]
Notice that He said “… in earth…” not “… on earth…”. This is a spiritual statement. The heaven and earth referred to here are spiritual not physical. It is in the spiritual heaven [the spiritual third heaven] that the will of God is perfectly done. But the plan is that the will of God will also be perfectly done in the spiritual earth. The spiritual earth refers to the realm where all human activity takes place, which is the realm of the air. As such, our Lord’s prayer is that just as the will of God is perfectly done in heaven [the third heaven], so also the will of God will be perfectly done in the realm of the air [the first heaven]. But as we discussed, the place of authority to influence the air is the spiritual second heaven [the spiritual heaven over this world]. As such, for the will of God to be perfectly done in the air [the first heaven], then His will must also be done in the heaven over this world [the second heaven]. We can therefore understand that our Lord’s prayer which says “… Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven …” is a prayer that God’s Kingdom will expand beyond the third heaven to take-over the second heaven [the spiritual heaven over this world] and the first heaven [spiritual the realm of the air where the spirits of human beings exist]. It is this progressive take-over of all three spiritual realms that is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 as our Lord descending from heaven to the air. And as we said before, He is coming as a Sun, as a shining light, to recover this world [its spiritual upper realm and its spiritual lower realm] from the powers of darkness that took over when Adam and Eve fell. That’s why our Lord Jesus is also referred to as the Last Adam. But just as it was the fall of both Adam and Eve that gave satan and his angels access to heaven of this world to exercise authority over the air and become the prince of the power of the air, so also it takes the rise of both the Last Adam and His bride to completely cast satan and his angels down from this heaven [the second heaven] and out from the air [the first heaven] into the bottomless pit [the spiritual dungeon, the spiritual prison]. That’s where we come in. That’s why in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 we are told that our Lord will descend with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trumpet of God. In other words, our Lord’s progressive take-over of the upper and lower spiritual realms of this world [the second heaven and the air] will be through the ministry of the archangel; and this archangel is a symbol for a symbol for a group of people who are part of the Bride of Christ. We should now proceed to consider the archangel. We trust our faithful Father to help our understanding. Amen.
Now, we should note that this archangel is the same angel that sounds the seventh trumpet in Revelation chapter 11. This angel is not referring to the spirit angels like Michael or Gabriel. At least, in this context, it is not. Rather, this angel refers to a body of people who serve as God’s messengers to declare His word to His people and the world. They are like Isaiah whom God instructed in Isaiah 58:1 saying:
“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” [KJV]
They are called archangel because, of all the ministries that God has anointed to serve as His messengers, they are the greatest. They are like John the Baptist whom our Lord Jesus described as the greatest ministry. Why? Because he was the one whose ministry went ahead to prepare the way for our Lord’s first coming. Similarly, these people referred to as the archangel are the ministry God will empower to announce and prepare the way for our Lord’s second coming. They are the ones our Lord Jesus referred to as “the clouds of heaven” and “his angels” in Matthew 24:30. From verse 29 it reads:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” [KJV]
In this passage, the clouds of heaven and the angels refer to the same people: the people referred to as the archangel in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. Hebrews 12:1 and Jude 1:12 show us that clouds are used as a symbol to represent people. But these people are not just clouds. They are clouds of heaven: clouds of the third heaven. And it is through their ministry of sounding the truth of God’s Kingdom that God will prepare His Church and progressively take-over the second heaven and the air.
The effect of their ministry is just like that of the seventy disciples our Lord Jesus empowered and sent to preach the gospel in Luke chapter 10. Luke 10:17-20 says:
“And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name. 18 And He said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. 19 Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” [KJV]
In this passage, after the disciples came back and reported the success of their ministry, our Lord Jesus told them of the vision He had while they were ministering. He told them that He beheld satan falling down from heaven as lightning from heaven. This means, satan was losing that position of spiritual authority over the cities where the disciples preached. Similarly, the people that collectively make up the archangel, or the clouds of heaven, will have such an effect on the powers of darkness. The only difference is that they will not just be preaching to some cities. God will spread them into all cities to preach the gospel of the Kingdom in all the world for a witness unto all nations. As such, the effect of their ministry is that satan and his angels will be completely cast down from the heaven of this world [the second heaven], not just in some cities, but in all cities of the world. It is this event of satan and his angels being permanently and completely cast down from the heaven of this world that is described in Matthew 24:29 as:
“… the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:” [KJV]
Revelation 6:12-14 also takes about the same thing. It says:
“And I beheld when He had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; 13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. 14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together;…” [KJV]
In these two passages, the sun, the moon and the stars refer to persons that make up satan’s spiritual government of darkness operating from the heaven of this world [the spiritual second heaven]. The sun [the principal star] is the head of government and that refers to satan. The stars refer to satan’s fellow fallen angels, the ones he appointed to operate as spiritual principals and powers over different regions and people. The moon refers to satan’s human allies. Persons that have made league with satan to rule and influence this world in a path of darkness. They are the ones that will have a bloody experience since they are human. These symbols, the sun, the moon and the stars, were also used in Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9. Joseph dreamt that the sun, the moon and the eleven stars bow down before him. When his father interpreted it, he said the sun was himself, Joseph’s Father, the head of the family, the stars were Joseph’s brothers who are also of the male gender and their father [the sun], and the moon was Joseph’s mother [who was of another gender different from the stars]. Keeping these in mind, we can understand why the sun refers to satan, the head of the spiritual government of darkness that was over the world. We can understand why the stars refer to satan’s fellow angels since they are of the same spiritual nature. And we can understand why the moon refers to humans, since they are of another nature [human nature] which is different from the sun and the stars [who are spirits].
But at least we can understand that satan and his angels will be cast down from the second heaven [the heaven over this world] through the ministry of the portion of the Bride of Christ that makes up “the clouds of heaven”: the messengers of God collectively symbolized as the archangel. This is what is shown as the war in heaven in Revelation 12:7-9. It is as they faithfully carry out their ministry under the spiritual Headship of our Lord Jesus, that there is war in the heaven of this world and the territory of our Lord’s Kingdom is expanded beyond the third heaven to the second heaven and finally to the air. Then at this point, the rest of the Bride of Christ who are not part of the archangel will be called into glory to join our Lord Jesus and their brethren to rule the world spiritually. At that time, the third heaven, the second heaven and the air will become one heaven. It will no longer just be the third heaven that is a paradise of God. The third heaven, the second heaven and the air will become one great spiritual paradise of God. And what is the paradise of God? It is a field beaming with life, full of fruitful trees¾trees that are full of sap. These trees are people. Isaiah 61:3 tells us that we are to be trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He will be glorified.
By calling the third heaven paradise in Second Corinthians 12:1-4 Paul was saying that the third heaven is full of persons who are like fruitful trees of God. These persons in the third heaven are mentioned in Hebrews 12:23-24. They are the innumerable company of angels; the members of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ¾not just all who go to church, but those whose names are truly written in heaven. 1 Timothy 2:19 says: “… The Lord knows those who are His. And, Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”¾it is those who truly belong to God that are part of the trees of the Paradise of God. Other trees include the spirits of just men made perfect. And the principal tree, the one in the center of the Paradise of God, is our Lord Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant. When therefore the second heaven is taken over, it will no longer be a field of thorny and dead trees, which is what satan and his angels and their human occult partners where. Rather it will now be occupied with the trees of God, the trees of righteousness who are now trees of life like our Lord Jesus. The air will be worked on because that is where the spirits of the rest of humanity are. During the thousand years, with satan and his angels bound up in prison [the bottomless pit], the humans will be cultured in the path of righteousness so that they could also be trees in God’s Kingdom. But not all will submit. Some will rebel and will be sent to the lake of fire, which is the second death.
But central to the flow of this plan is that we be faithful and make ourselves available to carry out the ministry God is empowering us His people to carry out. But those who will be empowered are those who make up the clouds of heaven. Those who live as trees of righteousness in the Paradise of God. Those who live like heavenly people and not earthy. May the Lord help us to leave in this way.