To enable us to understand the `First' Resurrection/ Rapture, it is best to divide the Word and look at the four different aspects.
#1 Jesus: "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence." (Colossians 1:18) He is considered to be "first fruit".
#2 The 144,000 Jews: "And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty [and] four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. .. the hundred [and] forty [and] four thousand, which were redeemed from
"These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, [being] the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb." (Revelation 7:1,..3,4) See Revelation 7:1-9 for the whole explanation of who these 144,000 are.
# 3 The Tribulation Saints, who missed the Rapture and repented. Since the Rapture has taken place before the Tribulation, the Antichrist had license to kill them for not taking the mark of the beast: "And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the
Lamb." (Revelation 7:13,14)
# 4 The Body of Christ, the Church who has the blessed hope. Note that only those who look for Him will see Him and hear His voice when He comes like a thief in the night to gather His bride. "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and
unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." (Hebrews 9:28)
THE PRETRIBULATIONA ASPECT OF THE RAPTURE
The Apostle Paul describes what it means to "be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus."
"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but [this] one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already
attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample." (Philippians 3:9-17)
"Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready." (Revelation 19:7) "Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:16) Jeremiah warns the Jews with this message from God: "Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride: for the land shall be desolate." (Jeremiah 7:34)
Total darkness sets in spiritually when the Church is removed. "And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived." (Revelation 18:23) And here is why: "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." (Matthew 25:46)
Jesus was talking to His disciples about the Rapture, those whom He had personally picked, which applies to His followers: "And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and [so] that day come upon you unawares.
"For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." (Luke 21:34-36) This is proof that the Resurrection/ Rapture ushers in the Tribulation. It comes unexpectedly and becomes the signal for the Tribulation to begin.