THE DEAD IN CHRIST:

dead-in-christ-rise.jpg

Before identifying the “dead in Christ,” we should note the context in which this phrase is found. The immediate context is 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, which deals with the question of what will happen at the return of the Lord Jesus. Paul’s readers were concerned that when Christ returns, those who have died prior to then would somehow miss out. The primary purpose of this passage is to comfort those believers who have lost believing loved ones.

The message of this passage is a message of hope. Christians have hope that unbelievers do not have when they lose loved ones. There is hope beyond the grave for Christians, and part of that hope is that, at the return of Christ, those who have already died “will rise first.” After that, Christians who are still alive will be transformed. Both groups will be “caught up” and will meet the Lord in the air. Paul closes this section with an admonition to encourage others with this hope.

In this passage, Paul uses the common euphemism of sleep to refer to those who have died in Christ, i.e., believers. Paul wants to comfort his readers that those Christians who have died prior to the return of Christ will not miss out on anything. That is why he opens this section by saying, “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” (v. 13).

So to answer the question, the dead in Christ are those believers who have died prior to the second coming of Christ. (Note, whether 1 Thessalonians 4 is referring to the second coming or the rapture is a matter of debate.) Believers, whether dead or alive, belong to Christ. We get similar language from the apostle in his first letter to the Corinthians when he writes, “But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:23). The dead in Christ applies not only to Paul’s original audience, but to all believers who have died in what can be termed the “inter-advental” period, or the time between the first and second comings of Christ.

Another question that may come up in this context is what happens to believers when they die? Certainly, Paul uses sleep to refer to their state, but does this mean that believers experience (for lack of a better word) an unconscious sleep-like state until the future resurrection? Those who advocate this position, called soul sleep, base it on passages such as 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18. But it should be noted that “sleep” as used here is euphemistic. It is not meant to convey actual sleep. In fact, the experience of the believer after death and before the end of the age when Christ returns is conscious, blissful communion with the Lord. Paul hints at this in 2 Corinthians 5:6–8 and Philippians 1:23.

At death, the body lies in repose in the grave awaiting the resurrection of the last day, but the soul goes to be at home with the Lord. This is the doctrine of the intermediate state. Believers experience in a provisional sense the rewards that await them in heaven, while unbelievers experience a taste of their eternal torment in hell (Luke 16:19–31).

Prophet Nathan Emol

RESURRECTION BODY:

resurrection-body.jpg

In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul discusses the great differences between our earthly bodies and our resurrected bodies (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-54). Contrasting our earthly bodies with the splendor of our heavenly (resurrected) bodies, Paul says, “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (vv. 42-44, emphasis added). In short, our resurrected bodies are spiritual, imperishable, and raised in glory and power.

Through the first Adam, we received our natural bodies, perfectly suited to an earthly environment. However, they became perishable as a consequence of the Fall. Due to disobedience, mankind became mortal. Aging, deterioration, and eventual death now affect all of us. From dust we came, and to dust shall we return (Genesis 3:19Ecclesiastes 3:20). Our resurrection bodies, on the other hand, will be “raised imperishable.” They will never experience sickness, decay, deterioration, or death. And “when the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable… then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

As a result of the Fall, we are “sown in dishonor.” We were originally made perfect and in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), but sin has brought dishonor. Yet believers have the promise that our imperfect and dishonored bodies will one day be raised in glory. Freed from the restrictions imposed by sin, our resurrected bodies will be honorable and perfectly suited for pleasing and praising our Creator throughout eternity.

Our current bodies are also characterized by weakness and debility. Our earthly “temples” are undeniably fragile and susceptible to the plethora of diseases that ravage mankind. We are also weakened by sin and temptation. One day, though, our bodies will be raised in power and glory, and we will no longer be subject to the flaws and fragility that pervade life today.

Last, the resurrected body will be a spiritual one. Our natural bodies are suited for living in this world, but this is the only realm in which we can live. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50). After the resurrection we will have a “spiritual body,” perfectly suited for living in heaven. This does not mean that we will be only spirits—spirits do not have bodies—but that our resurrected bodies will not need physical sustenance or depend on natural means of supporting life.

We get a glimpse of what our resurrection bodies will be like when we recall Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. He still had visible wounds, and His disciples could physically touch Him, yet He was able to travel effortlessly and appear and disappear at will. He could go through walls and doors yet could also eat and drink and sit and talk. Scripture informs us that our “lowly bodies” will be just “like His glorious body” (Philippians 3:21). Indeed, the physical limitations imposed by sin that hinder our ability to fully serve Him on earth will be forever gone, freeing us to praise and serve and glorify Him for eternity.

Prophet Nathan Emol

SECOND DEATH:

True.jpg

The second death is mentioned on multiple occasions in the book of Revelation and is synonymous with the lake of fire. It is a “death” in that it is a separation from God, the Giver of life. It is called the “second” one because it follows physical death.

Revelation 21:8 explains the second death in the most detail: “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Three other places in Revelation also mention the second death. The first is Revelation 2:11: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.” In this verse, Jesus promises that believers (“overcomers”; see 1 John 5:4) will not experience the lake of fire. The second death is exclusively for those who have rejected Christ. It is not a place believers in Christ should fear.

Revelation 20:6 speaks of the second death in relation to a future period called the Millennium: “Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” This verse notes three important facts. First, those who die for their faith in Jesus during the Tribulation will later be resurrected to enter the Millennium and live with Him. Second, these martyrs will escape the lake of fire or second death. Third, they will reign with Christ.

The second death is also mentioned in Revelation 20:14-15: “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” At the end of time, even death and the grave (Hades) will be thrown into the lake of fire. In addition, every person not included in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire. This condition will be final; the destination is permanent.

In summary, the second death is a reference to the lake of fire where those who are separated from God by their sin will dwell for eternity. This judgment was recorded in Scripture as a warning to unbelievers to seek the salvation that Jesus Christ provides. The coming judgment should also challenge believers to share their faith. There is a vast difference between the final destination of those who know Christ and those who do not.

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHO WILL GO TO HEAVEN?

                      Whho.jpg

People have different ideas about heaven. Many have no understanding of God at all, but still like to think of heaven as the “better place” where we all go when we die. Ideas about heaven are often no more than vague hopes, on par with “maybe I’ll win the lottery some day.” Most people don’t give heaven much thought until they attend a funeral or a loved one dies. It is popular to refer to heaven as the place where “the good people go.” And of course, everyone they know and love is included in the category of “good people.”

But the Bible has a lot to say about life after death, and it contradicts popular opinion. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Then in verse 36, Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment.” According to these verses, everyone dies, but not everyone goes to heaven (Matthew 25:46Romans 6:23Luke 12:5Mark 9:43).

God is holy and perfect. Heaven, His dwelling place, is holy and perfect, too (Psalm 68:5Nehemiah 1:5Revelation 11:19). According to Romans 3:10, “there is none righteous, no not one.” No human being is holy and perfect enough for heaven. The people we call “good” are not good at all compared to the sinless perfection of God. If God allowed sinful humans to enter the perfection of heaven, it would no longer be perfect. What standard should be used to determine who is “good enough?” God’s standard is the only one that counts, and He has already ruled. Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” And the payment for that sin is eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23).

Sin has to be punished, or God is not just (2 Thessalonians 1:6). The judgment we face at death is simply God bringing our accounts up to date and passing sentence on our crimes against Him. We have no way to make our wrongs right. Our good does not outweigh our bad. One sin ruins perfection, just as one drop of arsenic in a glass of water poisons the whole glass.

So God became man and took our punishment upon Himself. Jesus was God in the flesh. He lived a sinless life of obedience to His Father (Hebrews 4:15). He had no sin, yet at the cross He took our sin and made it His own. Once He paid the price for our sin, we could be declared holy and perfect (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we confess our sin to Him and ask His forgiveness, He stamps “Paid in Full” over our life of selfishness, lust, and greed (Acts 2:383:191 Peter 3:18).

When we stand before God one day, we cannot beg entrance to heaven based on our own merit. We have none to offer. Compared to God’s standard of holiness, not one of us is good enough. But Jesus is, and it is by His merit we can enter heaven. First Corinthians 6:9-11 says, “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The sacrifice of Jesus covers it all.

The people who go to heaven are all alike in one way: they are sinners who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:12Acts 16:31Romans 10:9). They have recognized their need for a Savior and humbly accepted God’s offer of forgiveness. They have repented of their old ways of living and set their course to follow Christ (Mark 8:34John 15:14). They have not attempted to earn God’s forgiveness but have served him gladly from grateful hearts (Psalm 100:2). The kind of faith that saves a soul is one that transforms a life (James 2:261 John 3:9-10) and rests fully on the grace of God.

Prophet Nathan Emol

STORING OUR TREASURES IN HEAVEN:

                          Heaven.jpg
 
Jesus told us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). He linked this command to the desire of our hearts: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21; see also verses 10–20).
 
The Bible mentions rewards that await the believer who serves the Lord faithfully in this world (Matthew 10:41). A “great” reward is promised to those who are persecuted for Jesus’ sake. Various crowns are mentioned (in 2 Timothy 4:8, e.g.). Jesus says that He will bring rewards with Him when He returns (Revelation 22:12).
 
We are to treasure the Lord Jesus most of all. When Jesus is our treasure, we will commit our resources—our money, our time, our talents—to His work in this world. Our motivation for what we do is important (1 Corinthians 10:31). Paul encourages servants that God has an eternal reward for those who are motivated to serve Christ: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23–24).
 
When we live sacrificially for Jesus’ sake or serve Him by serving the body of Christ, we store up treasure in heaven. Even seemingly small acts of service do not go unnoticed by God. “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward” (Matthew 10:42).
 
Some with more visible gifts (see 1 Corinthians 12) such as teaching, singing, or playing a musical instrument might be tempted to use their gift for their own glory. Those who use their talents or spiritual gifts coveting the praise of men rather than seeking God’s glory receive their “payment” in full here and now. The applause of men was the extent of the Pharisees’ reward (Matthew 6:16). Why should we work for worldly plaudits, however, when we can have so much more in heaven?
 
The Lord will be faithful to reward us for the service we give Him (Hebrews 6:10). Our ministries may differ, but the Lord we serve is the same. “The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:8).
 
The rich young man loved his money more than God in Matthew 19:16–30, a fact that Jesus incisively pointed out. The issue wasn’t that the young man was rich but that he “treasured” his riches and did not “treasure” what he could have in Christ. Jesus told the man to sell his possessions and give to the poor, “and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (verse 21). The young man left Jesus sad, because he was very rich. He chose this world’s treasure and so did not lay up treasure in heaven. He was unwilling to make Jesus his treasure. The young man was very religious, but Jesus exposed his heart of greed.
 
We are warned not to lose our full reward by following after false teachers (2 John 1:8). This is why it is so important to be in God’s Word daily (2 Timothy 2:15). That way we can recognize false teaching when we hear it.
 
The treasures that await the child of God will far outweigh any trouble, inconvenience, or persecution we may face (Romans 8:18). We can serve the Lord wholeheartedly, knowing that God is the One keeping score, and His reward will be abundantly gracious. “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
 
Prophet Nathan Emol