Wednesday: Rising in Christ (1 Thess. 4:15, 16)
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In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, Paul builds on the earthly teachings of Jesus. There are more than a dozen parallels between these end-time passages and the sayings of Jesus recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. But when Paul talks about the “word of the Lord” in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 (NKJV), he is referring to a saying of Jesus that did not make it into the four gospels, but that Paul preserves for us (a clear example of this same thing is seen in Acts 20:35).

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 16. According to Paul, what happens when Christ returns? See also Rev. 1:7; Matt. 24:31; John 5:28-29; Acts 1:9-11.


Image © Consuelo Udave from GoodSalt.com

The Second Coming of Jesus is a noisy event. It is accompanied by a commanding shout from an archangel and the trumpet of God. Everyone will hear it and see it (see Rev. 1:7; Matt. 24:31; John 5:28-29; Acts 1:9-11).

But the key point for Paul here is the order of events when Jesus comes. The Thessalonians had come to believe that dying before the return of Jesus would involve some sort of disadvantage in eternity, probably eternal physical separation from those who lived until Jesus’ return.

In this text Paul assures the Thessalonians that the living believers do not “precede,” or have any advantage over, the dead. The dead in Christ are the ones who rise first (see Rev. 20:4-6). That happens before the living ascend to meet Jesus in the air (1 Thess. 4:17). The righteous dead are resurrected and given immortality along with those who are alive when He returns.

This passage does not teach that believers go to heaven when they die. If Paul had taught the Thessalonian believers that their dead loved ones were in heaven, why would they be grieving, and why didn’t he just tell them so? Instead, the comfort Paul offers here is the knowledge that the resurrection will reunite them with those they have loved.

Think about all that happens at the second coming of Christ: Jesus comes in the sky, everyone sees Him, the dead are brought to life, the living are given immortality, and all are taken together to heaven. In one sense, it’s so outrageous, so against all that common sense, experience, and even science teach us. Yet, this is what we have to believe; otherwise, we have no hope. If you can trust the Lord in something like this, how can you not trust Him with whatever “smaller” things with which you are struggling?

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Wednesday: Rising in Christ (1 Thess. 4:15, 16) — 10 Comments

  1. Besides all that the lesson has to say we should not overlook the fact we meet the Lord in the air not here on earth (1 Thess 4:17). That is a rather important little bit of information since there are theological ideas out there that say that when Jesus comes He will set up His kingdom on earth.

    What Jesus assures us is that when He comes He will physically separate us from Satan and the horrible world he has created. The Lord won't be setting up a little Heaven, as it were, here on earth along side of Satan's league of tyrants. That is a situation that won't happen until after the thousand years and even then it is a special event where the wicked are raised to a temporary life for a very short time in order to prove a point.

    After that then God will create a new heaven and a new earth where the righteous can live in peace and harmony for the rest of eternity without being harassed by evil. To me that is what is so great about what scripture says concerning His second coming. It is a promise that God is going to end all the problems we have in this life under Satan's influence and control.

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  2. It's really interesting because this topic touches the area all Christians believe in and be rewarded for choosing Christ as our Saviour in this sad environment of Satan
    I would like to know if there are people in heaven now
    Read Matt. 17:2-5, 2 Kings 2:11-12 Jude 9 and Matt 27:52-53

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  3. There are people in heaven from the earth, tis recorded in the Bible as Martias has mentioned: Elijah, Moses, and other people. Clearly those whom The Lord and Christ the Lord had raised from the dead or taken alive. Elijah and Enoch are examples of those taken alive to heaven, and Moses and those mentioned in Matthew 27:52-53 are those He has raised from the dead. But the rest of us are clearly waiting for His second coming to either be raised from the dead and be taken alive, or be taken alive without dying. Except spirtually we have died in Christ to attain this privilege.

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  4. I dont know if this is the right place/forum to address this but I will ask anyhow.

    After reading 1 Thessalonians 4:14, after trying to explain that Christ will come and take the dead in Christ to heaven,and not that he will come with the saved from heaven, a question was raised "are there people in heaven?", the answer was no, then a question was asked "where is Moses, Enoch and Elijah, and who are the 24 elders of revelation 4:4?" bearing in mind that Jesus in John 4:4 KJV:
    13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

    I am rather confused please can someone help us out here,

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    • Concerning Enoch, Elijah, and Moses scripture seems somewhat vague as to where they are. Nothing is said about where Enoch and Moses were taken. As for Elijah the Bible says, "Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (2 Kings 2:11 NKJV). What we need to understand here is that the Hebrew word translated "heaven" is used not only of the place of God's throne but also of the air where the birds fly and also the place where the stars are. That makes the statement in 2 Kings 2 similar to the one in Acts that says, "Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven'" (Acts 1:9-11 NKJV). We need to ask what they were looking at as heaven.

      Now, as for Ellen White she was absolutely convinced that all three went to Heaven where God resides. So how do we reconcile Christ's statement, "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven" (Jn 3:13 NKJV) with the testimony that they were taken to Heaven. This statement is also of the same sort as the one concerning who has seen God, "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him" (Jn 1:18 NKJV). No one? What about Adam and Eve? What about Elijah as he was in the cleft of the rock while God passed by?

      What was the point that Jesus was making in all these statements? Was He making an absolute statement or was He declaring His elevated position among men as the "only begotten son of God" (look up what the Greek word "monogenes" means)?

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      • Tyler, in Greek one must be careful about words like "but." The underlying Greek may also be translated as "if not." As you can see that changes the whole meaning of the text, but agrees with the idea that Jesus' incarnation made heaven available to all who would believe. Sometimes the Bible is translated a certain way because of the bias of the translators. A good example is "I say to you this day, you will be with me in paradise" vs "I say to you, This day you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43) In this case the meaning is changed dramatically by the placement of a single comma.

        We can surmise what the correct translation might be of John 3:13 when we compare other texts. For instance, the scene on the Mount of Transfiguration can lead us to understand that both Elijah and Moses are alive, which of course, begs the question, "Where are they alive?" For some, the conclusion might be that they are in heaven with God. If so, they must have come down from heaven to stand with Jesus on the Mount. This would lead us to the "if not" translation rather than the "but" translation of this verse.

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  5. The verse I am quoting above is John 3:13, not John 4 (please forgive me) another place where we hear of the above mentioned people (Enoch, Elijah, Moses) dying is in Hebrews 11 (read all of it to get the context - Hebrews 11:1-40 but the specific mention of their death is in Hebrews 11:13 and Hebrews 11:39)

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  6. Now the Bible does say that Enoch was taken away by God without seeing death. Since God took him away it would be logical that he took Him beyond the Orion. One could assume that God set him up as an ambassador of heaven to other planets, to testify of what God had done for him. After all Enoch was a recipient of the plan of Salvation also.

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