I Thessalonians 4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
My son got married this summer. He and his new wife are moving into a new apartment this weekend. We had some questions about where they would live. Would they live near her parents’ place? Would they live near where Kevin’s professional juggling partner lives? Where would their home be? But “home” for them is where Kevin and Laura are together, wherever that is.
The majority of professing Christians (and true Christians also!) think that they are going home to heaven when they die. I like to ask them my questions. If you thought death would actually cause you to “lose consciousness”, would you fear death (more than you do already)? Why should we eagerly hope and wait for the second coming of Christ (the next time without sins, Hebrews 9:28) or for the resurrection, when instead we could simply eagerly wait for death to take us home without ever “losing consciousness”?
This majority says that Christians are people who go to heaven as soon as we get dead, no resurrection required. On the other hand, I think the dwelling place of God will be with humans on earth. I think that Christ ascended to heaven in order that He could come by His Spirit and prepare His people as His dwelling place. .
I Corinthians 15: 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death
I Corinthians 15: 45 And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord[ from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.
The last Adam was a living being like the first man Adam, but Christ has NOW BECOME the life-giving Spirit. We who are now already “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20) will one day (when Jesus our Priest and King comes to earth the second time) be changed and glorified and given immortality.
I know where my home is. Right now it’s a little “starter” townhouse my wife and I moved into 20 years ago. Home is where my wife and I are together. I hope to move somewhere else besides this house, perhaps to some place even smaller. But wherever my wife and I are together, there is home. If indeed the dwelling place of those humans who are redeemed is up in heaven, that will be home. On the other hand, if the dwelling place of God is with humans on this earth, when Christ returns, that will be home. “We will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
How is it that Christ will “bring with him the dead in Christ”? The Thessalonians text tells us. We will not precede them. The dead will rise first. This is NOT about “never-dying souls” of dead Christians getting into heaven before the rest of us do. Leave your dead body behind. Do not pass go. Get a new body in heaven now, as soon as you die, and before they even bury your old body. No, none of that is our hope. Nor is our hope some experience of disembodied consciousness (like The Matrix) where we can engage in uninterrupted worship. That is a stoic hope. That is a hope for “positive thinkers” who know enough not to deny that they keep sinning, but who do deny that they have in them any fear of the first death.
I think this stoic hope suits those who put on a “Sunday show”, not only for church and for others but for themselves, because they fear human emotions so much that they like to think mainly in terms of power and control. They entertain a gnostic hope for a triumphal worship before and without
1 Christ’s second coming
2 the resurrection
3 the judgement
4 the old body raised and given immortality
Look! I agreed that those with this view are in the majority. I even stipulated that, even if they are correct, the most important thing is that we will be home with God, and not like we are now in this present evil age (Galatians 1). I did not promise to not argue for my position! My position is that, even though the end of the ages has come, the age to come has not yet come for us, and will not until Christ comes and we are raised from death and glorified even from the presence of sins.
I Thessalonians 4: We will not precede them because they will be raised first. Not because they go to heaven first, but because they will be raised first.
Human persons, elect and non-elect, justified and condemned, will not be left in the graves. But now they wait in the graves, and then the elect will be changed in the twinkling of an eye and clothed with immortality. Then “the dead in Christ will rise first. Only then, at His coming will those saints who are alive and remain be caught up together with dead saints [all at once, at the same time)] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air as He comes to earth. This meeting is not to go back to heaven, but the coming of heaven to earth. Thus “we shall always be with the Lord.”
The non-elect will also be raised on that day but only to come into condemnation, and then to perish in the second death. But the justified elect will be raised and “shall not come into judgment” (that already happened for them at imputation and justification) but will from then on, in the age to come, be with the risen Christ with bodies like his glorious body.
I Corinthians 10:11 These things are written for our admonition, upon whom the end of the ages has come.
Galatians 1:4 Our Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself up for us in order to deliver us from this present evil age.
Ephesians 1: 20-21 the God of our Lord Jesus Christ…has seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come
Hebrews 9: 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the ages; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Hebrews 10: 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.