The True Hope: "Rapture" or Resurrection?, #6
For if we believe Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (I Thessalonians 4:14)
"If we believe Jesus died and rose again."
Notice that our hope concerning deceased believers is based on the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The fact that the Lord actually died and actually was raised from the dead is the immovable base on which our hope rests. Our hope is that we and our fellow believers will not die and pass into oblivion but will live once again on the earth.
There is no other hope that compares with the Christian hope. How terrible to believe when we or our loved ones die we cease to exist, that we pass into nothingness as though we never had been!
How utterly marvelous to view the present life as a training ground to prepare us for a far better existence—and on the earth in an incorruptible body!
Because the Lord Jesus died, and then rose again to stand on the earth and eat the honeycomb, our hope is absolutely certain. We will live again on the earth.
Based on the sure knowledge that the Lord died and rose again we know "them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him."
What does it mean to "sleep in Jesus"? It means to be abiding in the Lord at the time of our death. Saying the "four steps of salvation" is one matter. Abiding in Jesus is something else again.
The following verse describes what it means to abide in Jesus:
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. (John 6:57)
The saint is to "eat" Christ, allowing Christ to dwell in him. The believer's life is to be as much a part of Christ as Christ's Life is part of the Father. The Christian who is abiding in Christ is one with the Lord just as the Lord is one with the Father.
Those who "sleep in Jesus" have maintained the "oil" of the Holy Spirit in themselves. They are the "wise virgins." They will go to be with the Lord when He comes.
"For if we believe Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."
"Will God bring with him."
The great hope of I Thessalonians, Chapter Four is not that the living Christians will be caught up to Heaven but that God will bring the deceased believers with the Lord Jesus when He returns.
Here is the "comfort" Paul is offering. It is that the dead saints will return with the Lord. We shall see them again standing on the earth.
We believe those whom God brings with Jesus will be the victorious saints, God's true witnesses, of every age of the world's history. When the "rapture" is preached there is not always the Apostle's emphasis—that it is the time of the returning of the multitude of those who are part of the Lord Jesus.
The passage we are examining is emphasizing the coming of the Lord and all the "sleeping" saints. The coming ought to be stressed more than it is. Can you imagine the delight of those who have been waiting in the spirit realm, from Adam to the last saint who has died, as they are allowed to return to the familiar scenes of earth?
To be continued.