1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 - Heaven's Not Forever
When you die with faith in Christ, you will immediately be with Him in heaven. But not forever.
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Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 Brothers, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Listen to passage & devotional:
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 57
Q. How does “the resurrection of the body”
A. Not only my soul
will be taken immediately after this life
to Christ its head,
but even my very flesh,
raised by the power of Christ,
will be reunited with my soul
and made like Christ’s glorious body.
Yesterday we were reminded of the tremendous faith of the criminal who hung on the cross beside Jesus, and the tremendous assurance that Jesus responded with, saying "Today, you will be with me in paradise." This is a beautiful comfort that we cling to in the loss of a loved one, that immediately upon taking their last breath they've gone to heaven to be with Jesus.
But passages like today's help us understand that our stay in heaven will only be temporary, because there's something much better in store.
When Christ returns, He will not return alone, rather "God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him (v14)." As the Lord himself comes down from heaven, He will command His archangel to sound the trumpet of God, and those who "have fallen asleep," which is a New Testament euphemism for having died in Christ, will "rise first." That is, their souls, which have been in heaven with Jesus, will be rejoined to their newly resurrected bodies.
After that, Christians who are still living at the time, having witnessed this awesome second coming of Christ, will be "caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air (v17)." It's at this point that the final judgment will take place, and the new heavens and new earth will be inaugurated.
This Biblical teaching is surprising to most Christians. While the Bible tells us everything we need to know about how to attain salvation by grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone, it tells us very little about what eternal life with Him will be like. We do know that it will be eternal, however, so it's quite easy for us to assume that when we die and go immediately to heaven as Jesus promised that we will be there with Him forever and ever.
But that's not at all what you've been designed for. You were planned for and created with two distinct aspects: both a soul and a body. This is one of the things that makes you unique and different from any other embodied creature.
So many other religions have looked at this dichotomy and concluded that true peace is not possible until a person has completely freed his soul from the physical prison of this world. Thus anything that's physical is bad, and anything that's spiritual is good.
But since God created you with both a spiritual and physical aspect, it only makes sense that true perfection can not be fully attained until both parts are once again joined. Certainly heaven will be wonderful, and we can find true peace knowing that our loved ones who trusted in Christ are enjoying it, having been freed from sin, sickness and suffering. But they, like you, are waiting for something even better.
This is confusing and hard to understand for sure, but as it says in v18, these words are given to you for encouragement. Christ is coming to make all things new again: both your body and a new earth for you to live on with Him forever.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father God, who will bring Jesus back, along with all who have fallen asleep in Him.
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Ask that God will encourage you with these words so that you can live optimistically in a very pessimistic world.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Romans 11