Ted Bradshaw April 28. 2017
We grieve when a loved one leaves for an extended trip, but it is grief mitigated by the strong expectation that it is just a separation for a time. We can be confident that we will soon be in one another’s arms again.
“But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. 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; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
Paul has been given a great and glorious revelation of the Lord’s return.
Prior to this, all the believers had was the early revelation to the Disciples on the Day of Ascension.
“And when he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they were looking stedfastly into heaven as he went, behold two men stood by them in white apparel; who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? this Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)
While it was a fantastic promise that Jesus would return, it revealed nothing of what the believers would experience when they died.
God in His mercy for the concerns of the ignorant believers, gave this revelation. Again, it is sketchy, but enough to give us hope in our, and our believing loved ones, personal resurrection 2,000 years later.
There has been a concern that cremation instead of burial would interfere with this glorious resurrection.
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will be the first to rise. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)
God plans that we will have new bodies. These will be “celestial bodies”.
“But some one will say, How are the dead raised? and with what manner of body do they come? Thou foolish one, that which thou thyself sowest is not quickened except it die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not the body that shall be, but a bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other kind; but God giveth it a body even as it pleased him, and to each seed a body of its own. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fishes. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.” (1 Corinthians 15:35-40)
God does not need the material atoms of our fleshly bodies to give us celestial bodies. Cremation with its dispersal of gasses and the reduction to ash that may blow away the wind is irrelevant. Just as those bodies of sailors who drown in the sea and are eaten, or the bodies of those who die in the wilderness and become carrion are irrelevant.
Our bodies are simply vehicles to transport our persons, our immaterial souls and spirits.
God knows the person that is each one of us. The Creator does not need the elements of our physical bodies to give us new heavenly bodies. He will reclothe each believer’s soul and spirit in an eternal, imperishable celestial body.
People ask what age they will be in heaven when they die. Will babies still be babies? Will youth retain their youth? Will the elderly retain their wrinkles? These are questions from our fixation with time and material. On the contrary, these physical bodies are disposable.
“For in the resurrection, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30)
Relationships will be different in Heaven, in a similar way, our spiritual, celestial bodies will be different.
“Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is.” (1 John 3:2)
Since these bodies are irrelevant to God’s kingdom our new bodies will be designed by God.
When the Trumpet sounds and the Archangel shout, then Christ Jesus will appear. The dead in Christ will rise! Dead and alive, alike, will be rescued from global, eternal destruction.
Those who have died will rise first. I do not know if those, who are living will see the dead in Christ arise since it will be the souls and spirits of each deceased believer that our Lord will resurrect. But I expect we will sense them rising because we are soon (immediately) to follow.
I suspect the popular idea of the empty clothes left behind is false. My conception, since we will have celestial bodies too, is that the living believers will, to the eyes of unbelievers, just disappear as Jesus did several times.
Another possibility is that our earthly bodies, no longer needed, will be shucked like snake’s skin, left behind to dissolve with all the material world.
Regardless of the mechanism, the living and the dead will meet beyond the physical world, “in the air”.
Can you imagine the grand a glorious reunion! Believers from Adam and Eve to Abraham and Sarah, to Ruth and Obed to Mary and Joseph, to Aquilla and Priscilla to Martin and Katharina Luther, to Johnathan and Sarah Edwards to George and Martha Washington, to our parents and siblings and children and all our believing friends, meeting together!
“For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
I believe we will know these brothers and sisters intimately just as God knows each one of us.
After glad-handing one another, then and finally, we will be united with our God and Savior, our Father, our Lord, and our Guide and Counselor.
“But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep; that ye sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
Hope does not disappoint believers since it is founded on God’s Word.
“Being, therefore, justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand; and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we also rejoice in our tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh steadfastness; and steadfastness, approvedness; and approvedness, hope: and hope putteth not to shame; because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us.” (Romans 5:1-5)
Do you not see the promise in this?! Nothing can separate us from the love of God. And nothing can separate us from the ones He loves. Death is but a temporary absence one from another. Death is no more than an “extended-trip-to-the-grocery-store” absence from one another.
Just so, in a believer’s death. Jesus has promised, We WILL be in one another’s arms again, and soon!
Yes! There is great comfort in this promise for those who truly trust in Christ!
Read a Prayer for the Deceased.