Resurrection and Rapture
The Lord's Church and People
By Pastor F. M. Riley
July 20, 2017
"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.
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," 1 Corinthians 15:51-52.
This text Scripture presents in concise form what is SOON going to occur in just an instant of time. The resurrection and rapture of God's people will occur suddenly, and will be totally unexpected by the lost unbelieving world. Only those true believers who are seriously studying and believing the prophecies of God's inspired Word will be expecting this glorious event. Even some true believers will be taken by surprise, for some believers are not obeying the Lord's explicit command to "watch." But this event will occur, in spite of the unbelief of some. Be ready, or you will wish you had been.
Our readers may think I picked a strange title for this study, but I am convicted that many true believers, while being familiar with the Scriptures about the resurrection and rapture, have never "slowed down" long enough to study them verse by verse and word by word in order to have a good in-depth understanding of exactly what is being said. So what follows is an in-depth study of this subject in slow motion.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
These Scriptures deal with the subject of the resurrection and rapture in more detail than any other Scriptures in the inspired Word, therefore I am using these Scriptures as my text for this study. Join us for an enlightening study that hopefully will be a blessing to God's people.
The Love of the Apostle Paul
"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," 4:13.
There were obviously true believers in the church at Thessalonica who had physically died. Their loved ones were in deep sorrow. Therefore the Apostle Paul, seeing their sorrow, was inspired of God to set before them the great truths about the resurrection and rapture contained in these Scriptures.
In this particular portion of Scripture, Paul displayed his love for his "brethren" at Thessalonica, in his fervent desire that they should not have such deep sorrow over their deceased loved ones. Some sorrow over our loved ones who have preceded us in death is to be expected, but a true believer who sorrows, as those "who have no hope," is a sign of Scriptural ignorance. By the grace of God, we believers will again meet our loved ones, who died in the faith, at the time of the resurrection and rapture.
One of the saddest and most heart wrenching things I was ever told by a brother in Christ, was about the funeral services of a lost man, which he had attended. The lost man's wife was a devoted Christian believer, who deeply loved her unsaved husband. They had been married several years and had children together. But he was suddenly killed in a traffic accident.
At the grave site, as they were preparing to lower his body into the grave, his wife was emotionally overcome with deep sorrow. She began intensely sobbing. Then as the casket was lowered into the grave, she broke out into hysterical screaming, "No hope! No hope! No hope!" She knew she would never see or meet her husband again!
Dear readers, Christian believers, young or old, in seeking a life time companion to be your husband or wife, should make it a point to marry only a Christian believer. But, I have been asked, "But I don't know anyone who is a true believer?" Then PRAY! Ask the Lord to bring your life's companion into your life. It works! That is what I did as a young man, seeking someone to love and who would love me, and the Lord God heard and answered my prayer. We spent 28 wonderful years together, before the Lord took her home to glory. Clear enough?
Them Which Sleep in Jesus
"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him," 4:14.
Death is never the end of human existence. We humans are the creation of the Lord God of Heaven, Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7; 2:18-23. Now read Ecclesiastes 3:14, and believe what it says.
When a person dies, their eternal soul leaves their body, and goes to either Heaven above or to Hell below. In the case of a true believer, their future home is Heaven above, 2 Corinthians 5:1-8. But in the case of a lost unbeliever, their eternal destiny is Hell, Luke 16:19-26. We all make our choice, by receiving or rejecting Christ Jesus as our Savior, while we are still living. Take heed!
In this Scripture, Paul was seeking to comfort and encourage those in the church at Thessalonica, whose loved ones had died in the Lord. Notice that Paul emphasized, "if we believe that Jesus died and rose again." It is only those who "believe" this truth, who are going to be reunited with their deceased loved ones who have died in the faith. This Scripture plainly states that the Lord Jesus Christ will bring the souls of all deceased believers with Him when He comes again at the time of the resurrection and rapture. There will be a great, grand, glorious, reunion of all true believers at the coming of Christ. Speaking by Divine Inspiration, Paul said it, and you can count on it!
By the Word of the Lord
"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 [precede] them which are asleep," 4:15.
In this statement Paul first assured the Thessalonians that what he was saying was not his opinion or theory. He was speaking "by the Word of the Lord;" by no less than Divine Inspiration. In other words, true believers can depend on Paul's statements here as being absolute truth! Also read Peter's statement in 2 Peter 1:19-21. By the grace of God, we believers have "a more sure [absolutely certain] Word of prophecy." Glory to God! Praise the Lord!
A Special Blessing
Then in this Scripture, Paul referred to true believers "which are alive and remain." He used this same expression a second time in 4:17, which we will get to a bit later in the study. This statement makes it quite clear that there will be true believers still living on the earth in their physical bodies, at the very time the Lord comes to resurrect and rapture His New Covenant Church and people to Himself. I can say with Paul that I know in whom I have believed, and I hope to still be living when Jesus comes.
Why? Because those true believers who are still alive on the earth, at the time the Lord comes to resurrect and rapture His people, will never experience death. Read it for yoursel in John 11:24-26, and notice that the subject under discussion is "the resurrection."
Yes, I am fully aware that every man has an "appointment" with death, Hebrews 9:27, but I also know that it was the Lord God who made man's appointment with death [Genesis 2:17], therefore the Lord God can cancel that appointment at any time He chooses. His Word makes it quite clear, that the Lord has cancelled man's appointment with death for some in the past, [Genesis 5:22-24; Hebrews 11:5], therefore it will be no "big deal" for Him to cancel that appointment for all true believers still alive on the earth when He comes at the time of the resurrection and rapture.
In my long life, I have seen all of the death and heartache and sorrow I want to see. By the grace of God, I have no fear of death or dying, but I still have no desire to experience death. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus," Revelation 22:20.
Also this inspired Scripture makes it quite clear that both the resurrection and rapture will occur at the same time, or at least during the same time period. The "dead in Christ" will not be "caught up" before those who are "alive and remain." The Old Covenant believers, both Jews and Gentiles, and the Tribulation period saints, will be resurrected and raptured at other times, but all New Covenant believers saved during this present Dispensation of Grace, those presently deceased and those presently living, will be "caught up together." Glory to God! Praise the Lord!
One more observation! The Scriptures clearly state that those saved during this present dispensation "are not appointed to wrath," 1 Thessalonians 5:9. But the entire seven year Tribulation period is seven years of wrath, which is to be poured out upon Christ rejecting unbelievers left behind on the earth, following the resurrection and rapture. So these statements of Paul make it quite clear that the resurrection and rapture, both which occur during the same brief time period, will be Pre-Tribulational. Glory to God! Hallelujah!
The Coming of the Lord
"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:," 4:16.
Wow! What a Scripture! And it is loaded with information about the coming of our Lord which some believers have either never heard, or have never understood. It is my joy to be able to share these truths with God's people, and with lost seeking souls.
First, the Lord Jesus Christ is in Heaven. He has been there ever since He ascended back to His Father as recorded in Acts 1:9-10; Hebrews 1:3. But there is a time now fast approaching when Father God will turn to His Son, and tell Him to come get His Church [bride] and His people. It is then that Christ "will descend from heaven." Glory to God!
Therefore, those true believers who are faithfully "watching" for the Lord's return, need to keep their eyes on the heavens above, as well as on the "signs" which are occurring on the earth. One day SOON, we believers are going to see a door open in heaven above, and the Lord Jesus is going to come through that door, coming again to resurrect and rapture His Church, and all true believers to glory, Matthew 24:32-33; Revelation 4:1.
Notice that the Lord is coming with "a shout ." This does not mean "Whoopee" or "Hey look, I'm here!" The Greek word translated as "shout" in this Scripture is the word, "keleusma." This Greek word literally means, "an intelligent call; a command; an order." See Thayer's Greek Lexicon, page 343, Strong's No. 2752.
Dear readers, when our Lord comes, He is going to call each one of us to Himself by our name. Yes, He does know your name, He knows where you live, and even what you are doing at any given minute, Acts 9:11. When He comes, every true believer will hear His call for them to come to Him. This is not a theory or idea that I have invented.
The old patriarch Job, who lived thousands of years ago, stated this same truth, as he discussed his resurrection in Job 14:14-15. So the "shout" the Lord is going to give will be an intelligent call to each of His people, calling each one by their name, to come to Him, John 14:1-3.
I do not know how to verify it, but I was told years ago that the writer of the Country Gospel song, "I'll be Somewhere Listening For My Name," was inspired to write his song based on Job's statement.
Such a call of each believer by name, may seem impossible to some readers, but keep in mind that it is the Lord God who will be doing the calling, and with God "all things are possible," Mark 10:27.
The Voice of the Archangel
In this same Scripture, Paul also stated that the Lord is coming with "the voice of the archangel." All of our readers surely know what an "arch" is, and where it occurs in building construction. An "arch" is always at the top. The "archangel" is then the angel at the top; the top position; the head, leader, or commanding officer of the angelic hosts. There are five Scriptures in God's Word which indicate that this position is now occupied by an angel named Michael. Look them up in your Concordance. Why am I emphasizing this?
Because in eternity past, this position was likely once occupied by "the anointed cherub." See Ezekiel 28. But when "the anointed cherub" rebelled against the Lord, becoming the one we know today as "Satan," and led one-third of the angelic hosts into rebellion with him, Michael refused to join them. Michael remained loyal to the Lord God. It is probable that Michael was then given the position of "archangel" once held by "the anointed cherub."
Why is this important in this study about the resurrection? Because one of the responsibilites of Michael is being the guardian, or caretaker, of the bodies of deceased believers; those who placed their faith in the Lord God for salvation before they died.
We know this to be true because it is recorded in Scripture that Satan wanted the body of Moses, after his death. But Michael refused to allow Satan to have the body of Moses. Satan likely wanted to make an idol god out of the body of Moses, knowing how much Moses was loved by the Israelite people. By making an idol out of the body of Moses, Satan hoped to turn the Israelite people away from worshipping the Lord. But Michael the archangel withstood Satan himself, and refused to release the body of Moses. Read it for yourself in Jude 9.
The sequel to this encounter between Michael and Satan, is that the Lord Jesus is coming "with the voice of the archangel." I take this to mean that Michael's voice of authority will command the earth to release the bodies of every deceased believer, so that they can be resurrected and "caught up.....to meet the Lord in the air." Glory to God! Praise the Lord!
The Trump of God
This Scripture also states, that when the Lord comes, He will have in His possession the "trump" [or Trumpet] of God." A "trump" is the sound made by a Trumpet. This sound, according to the Apostle Paul, is very important, 1 Corinthians 14:7-8.
Based on this Scripture, I have had fellow ministers dogmatically tell me that the Lord cannot return on any day other than Rosh HaShanah because it is the Jewish Holy Day known as The Festival of Trumpets, when trumpets are blown all day long. This theory is a crock of hogwash!
If some of these fellows would bother to seriously study Numbers 10, which deals with the use of the trumpets the Lord commanded Israel to make, it can easily be seen that the trumpets were sounded on every Jewish holy day, throughout the year, Numbers 10:10. The sounding of the trumpets was not limited just to Rosh HaShanah.
I make no claim to knowing the day and hour when the Lord is coming, but I have good reason to believe the Lord's coming will be during this present year of 2017. And His coming will be accompanied by "the trump of God."
According to Numbers 10, different sounds being made by the trumpets had different meanings for the people of Israel who heard them. This is why Paul was so adamant about correctly preaching the Word in 1 Corinthians 14. According to the inspired Word, a true God called preacher is supposed to be a trumpet sounding forth the Word of the Lord, Isaiah 58:1. Therefore a preacher had better be adhering strictly to what the Word of God actually and literally says, and not be preaching some silly theory or even his own opinion, for every person claiming to be one of the Lord's preachers is going to have to give a personal account to the Lord for their faithful stewardship, or their lack of it, Hebrews 13:17.
One of the sounds made by the trumpets was to assemble all of the people of Israel to Moses [a type of Christ] at the door of the Tabernacle, Numbers 10:3. There is no doubt in my mind, that when our Lord comes "with the trump of God," He is going to use it to assemble all true believers to Himself at the door of Heaven.
1 Corinthians 15:52
This is why the Apostle Paul explicitly stated, "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." Glory to God! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!
The Greek word translated as "moment" in this Scripture is the word, "atomos." Most readers surely know that all matter, visible and invisible, is composed of atoms. These atoms are what the Lord God used in creating all things. Atoms can be split! The splitting of the atom is what gave mankind the Atomic bomb.
But the truth stated here by the inspired Apostle is that the resurrection and rapture of God's people will take place in a split "atom." We ordinarily say "a split second." In other words as fast, or faster, than one blinks their eye with their eyelid. Folks, that is fast! One instant on the earth. Then "the trump of God" will sound, and the next instant every true believer will be assembled with all other true believers in the sky at the door of Heaven. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! Glory to the Lord Jesus!
The Dead in Christ
Going back to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, this Scripture explicitly tells us that "the dead in Christ shall rise first." Because of the English wording of this Scripture, some today teach that "the dead in Christ" are raptured, or "caught up" first. This is not what this Scripture is saying, and I will give Scriptural proof of this momentarily. What the Scripture actually and literally says is clearly stated. The "dead in Christ.....rise," meaning that they come out of their graves "first;" that is, preceding the rapture.
The English word, "rise," in this Scripture is translated from the Greek word, "anistemi." This Greek word literally means, "to arise; to stand up; to get up; to come back to life." See Thayer's Greek Lexicon, page 47, Strong's No. 450. This Greek word is not the same Greek word used in describing the rapture in 4:17, and does not have the same meaning. To then teach people that the resurrected "dead in Christ," will be raptured before the believers still alive when the Lord comes, is gross error on the part of the teacher or preacher. It just isn't so! It is clearly stated in 4:17 that the resurrected saints and the living saints will be "caught up together." Hello!
This fairly well covers 4:16, so now let's move forward to.....
The Rapture or Catching Away
"Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them [those just resurrected] in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord," 4:17.
In this Scripture the inspired Apostle again mentions the Lord's people which are still alive on the earth at the time the resurrection and rapture occurs. The first mention of the living believers is in 4:15. Again, this gives Scriptural proof that there will still be true believers living on the earth when the resurrection and rapture occurs.
And what happens at this point in time? Both the resurrected believers and "we which are alive and remain" shall be "caught up together.....in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." As stated previously, ALL of those saved during this present Dispensation of Grace are going up together as one united body of Christ. Glory to God!
As has been pointed out many times by the "rapture haters" in the ranks of Christianity, the word "rapture" never occurs anywhere in the Bible. What Paul was inspired of God to use in his statement to the Lord's church at Thessalonia to describe the rapture was the Greek word, "harpazo." This Greek word literally means, "to catch away; to snatch up; to steal; to carry off." See Thayer's Greek Lexicon, page 74, Strong's No. 726. Translating the word as "caught up" in this Scripture was quite intelligent on the part of the translators.
It doesn't require a great deal of intelligence and common sense to understand that the words "caught up," and the word "rapture," mean exactly the same thing. Look up both words in your Dictionary and see this truth for yourself.
Paul, in this Scripture plainly taught the Thessalonians that a "rapture" of all true believers will occur at the coming of the Lord for His New Covenant Church and people. We believers will suddenly and instantly be "caught up" into the clouds above the earth, exactly as our Lord ascended into the clouds some 2,000 years ago, Acts 1:9-10.
The Great Witness
If the reader is looking up the Scripture references given, notice that at the time the Lord was raptured, His disciples watched Him ascend into the clouds until He vanished out of their sight, Acts 1:10-11. I cannot dogmatically state, that there will be eye-witnesses to the rapture of God's people, when the resurrection and rapture occurs, but I highly suspect that there will be. Read Matthew 24:40-44 and Luke 17:34-36 and decide for yourself.
Whether there will be, or will not be, eye-witnesses left behind on the earth, as eye witnesses to the rapture of God's people, yet the rapture itself will be the greatest "witness" to the accuracy and truth of God's Word that has ever confronted mankind.
At least 144,000 presently unbelieving, unsaved, Jews will immediately turn to Christ for salvation, and will be gloriously saved and sealed, Revelation 7:1-8. I highly suspect that many thousands of presently unsaved Gentiles all over the earth will also rush to seek the Lord, when they see hundreds or even thousands of their former Christian friends, neighbors, and co-workers, suddenly vanish with no explanation for it other than that they have been raptured, Revelation 7:9-17. What a glorious "witness" to presently unsaved men and women, boys and girls, the rapture will be, to the accuracy and truth of the inspired Word of God. Glory to God!
But a word of warning to any unsaved reader of this study. If you wait until the rapture occurs to seek the Lord as your own personal Savior, your present lack of faith will have caused you to wait too long. Yes, the Lord will still save every person who turns to Him with a true heart of faith during the Tribulation period, however being saved during the Tribulation will not deliver you out of the Tribulation. The Scriptures are quite clear, that every person saved during the Tribulation will become a martyr for Christ. The anti-christ and his followers will seek to kill, and rid the earth, of every person who turns to the Lord during the Tribulation period. Revelation 7:14 explicitly states, ".....These are they which came out of tribulation, the great one, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." See also Revelation 20:4. Our readers have been warned! Why not just seek the Lord NOW, while there is still time and opportunity to be saved before the rapture occurs? Well...??
The Purpose of the Rapture
Don't fail to notice that in this Scripture, the Apostle Paul also stated the purpose for the rapture, "to meet the Lord in the air." Let's not just skim over this statement, for this meeting is highly significant to every true believer in the light of Bible prophecy.
In 1 Corinthians 15:49, Paul wrote, "And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." Every child born today, and likely throughout human history, has borne some resemblance to either their father or their mother. This is what is meant about bearing "the image of the earthy."
Then in speaking of the resurrection and rapture in this same Scripture, Paul was inspired of God to say that we believers will "bear the image of the heavenly." In other words, every true believer is going to have some resemblance to the Lord Jesus Christ, who brought us to spiritual birth. So how is this resemblance to the Lord Jesus going to be given to us, and when will we receive it? Good questions! Now let's find the answers in the inspired Word.
In 1 Corinthians 15:51 the Apostle was inspired to write, "Behold, I shew [reveal to] you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed." Notice that here Paul was still speaking in the context of the resurrection and rapture. So this "change" in the believer is defintely related to the resurrection and rapture.
In Paul's writings to the Thessalonians, he states that we believers will "meet the Lord in the air," 4:17. And what will be the result of this meeting?
In Philippians 3:20-21, the Scripture explicitly states, "For our conversation [spiritual life] is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ:
Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious [glorified] body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself."
Glory to God! This tells us how and when our "change" will come. Our "change" will occur when we meet our Lord face to face "in the air"
at the time of the rapture. We will see Him for ourselves, and instantly be transformed into His likeness. His glorious "image" will be imparted to us believers, causing us to bear His "image" or resemblance in our own body. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
And what kind of glorified body will we receive at that time? Right here let's take another look at the old patriarch, Job. Hundreds of years ago, Job spoke about the resurrection in Job 14:14-15, but also in Job 33:14-30.
In this latter passage, Job spoke about the way of salvation, and the results of salvation. In these inspired Scriptures, Job explicitly stated that the person who receives God's message of salvation "shall return to the days of his youth: He shall pray unto God, and He will be favorable unto him, and he shall see His face with joy: for He [God] will render unto man His righteousness."
Dear readers, STUDY this passage in Job, and let the truths stated there soak into your heart and soul. Job plainly stated that the true believer is going to "return to the days of his youth." This will be as a result of seeing God face to face. We believers will literally return to the prime of life.
Folks, the aging of our bodies is the result of the Adamic "sin nature" working within us, which gradually causes our body of flesh to age, weaken, and die. But Christ Jesus bore our sins in His own body at Calvary. Therefore our inner man or soul has already been cleansed of sin and never ages. At the time that we believers are "caught up" [raptured] and see Christ for ourselves, we shall "return to the days of our youth," because the "righteousness of Christ" will then be imparted to our glorified body; "He will render unto man His righteousness." Glory to God! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!
Do our readers remember singing that old hymn, "Where We'll Never Grow Old?" Dear readers, that is literally going to come to pass for every true believer. Isn't it wonderful to have the assurance of salvation in Christ Jesus, our precious Savior and Lord?
Folks, there are no old people in Heaven. You may have buried a Mom or Dad, or other loved one, who was old and weak and sick, perhaps crippled, who died from their ailment or from some disease. But if they were true believers, at the time of the resurrection and rapture they will come forth restored to "the days of their youth," with the love and beauty of the Lord Jesus written all over their face.
And when we who "are alive and remain" are caught up and see the Lord Jesus for ourselves, His beautiful countenance will be reflected upon us, as we are made like Him, Philippians 3:20-21. And we will never grow old in all of "the ages to come," Ephesians 2:7.
Ever To Be With The Lord
In this same Scripture [4:17] Paul assured the Thessalonian believers that God's people who are resurrected and "caught up" [raptured] will forever be with the Lord. We believers have a glorious future awaiting us. There are many Scriptures which I could refer to right here, but for lack of space and time, I will not. Suffice it to say, that we New Covenant believers who have placed our faith in Christ Jesus for salvation will have "New Jerusalem," presently in Heaven above, as our eternal home. The inspired Word explicitly teaches that "New Jerusalem" will be the eternal dwelling place of "the bride" of Christ, Revelation 21:1-2.
In that glorious heavenly city there will never be sin, no heartaches, no crying, no pain, no suffering, no tears, no death, "for the former things are passed away," Revelation 21:4; 21:27. It will be a place of everlasting joy and peace, and the very light of that city will shine down upon redeemed mankind upon the earth, those who survive the Tribulation period still in their natural bodies, who will make up the nations of the earth, 21:24-27. Redeemed mankind upon the earth at that time will "learn war no more" [Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3] for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself will be their ruler and King.
Satan and his followers will be destroyed at the Great White Throne judgment, Revelation 20, and at last there will be true "peace" throughout the Lord God's entire Universe, and in all of "the ages to come," Ephesians 2:4-7. Glory to God! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
But dear reader, if you are unsaved; still lost in sin, when the resurrection and rapture occurs, you may or may not be saved during the coming terrible Tribulation period. Do you really want to risk losing your soul forever, and spending eternity in the everlasting fires of Hell, which was prepared for the Devil and his angels? See Matthew 25:41. Hell was not prepared for mankind, so why would any man or woman choose to go there, when the "way" of eternal salvation has been set before you? Read John 3:16, 3:18, 5:24, 14:6, Acts 4:12, 16:30-31, Romans 10:8-13, and Ephesians 2:8-10. Believe what these inspired Scriptures say about the way of salvation, bow your head and your heart before God, and sincerely ask the Lord Jesus Christ to come into your heart and soul and save you from the penalty of your sin, and He will. Do it and you will experience His saving grace for yourself!
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Permission is granted to any true believer, or Bible believing Christian ministry to reproduce this study to share with others, or to quote from it in context as written.
Thanks to every reader who has been led of the Lord to pray for and support this Bible Study ministry. Please do feel free to share these studies with others, as time is swiftly running out. Our time to "witness"
and "win" the lost to Christ will soon be over. Thank you from my heart for helping make it possible for me to send out the great truths of the Word in these Bible Studies. I appreciate it so much.
Please address all comments, questions, and correspondence to: Pastor F. M. Riley, 14275 County Road 8120, Rolla, Missouri 65401. God bless you all is my heart felt prayer.
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