Listen:  148.5

When a person dies his “body” is dead but his “spirit” is still alive. This is taught in James 2:26 which says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.” We read repeatedly in Scripture that when someone died they “gave up the ghost.” Genesis 25:8 is one example, for it reads, “Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.”  Abraham’s spirit left his body and his body died and was buried. The apostle Paul wrote of his possible martyrdom in Philippians 1:21-23 with these words, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” (NKJV)  As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ Paul knew that if he died, he would “…depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” In other words, he knew that though his body would die, his spirit, which would still be alive and conscious, would leave his body and go to be with Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 Paul spoke of this same truth; it reads, “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (NKJV)   We could multiply examples but the teaching is clear; when Scripture speaks of “the dead” it refers to “the body.” The obvious conclusion is that when the Lord Jesus returns to “resurrect the dead,” it is the “body of the believer that will be resurrected,” and it will then be reunited with the spirit of the believer.

Let’s consider 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 which speak of the rapture and the resurrection of believers who had died. In verses 13-14 we read, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” The saints at Thessalonica were very concerned about fellow-believers who had died. They were waiting for Christ to return to set up His kingdom and their question was, “Will our dear brethren who have died have a part in Christ’s coming and in His glorious kingdom?”  To remove their fears and reduce their sorrow, Paul stated emphatically that they would indeed be brought with Christ when He returns to establish His kingdom. But that would raise another question, “How can they return to earth with Christ if their bodies are lying in the grave?” The answer is revealed in verses 15-17, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  Paul was given a special revelation from the Lord which would solve their dilemma. Before Christ comes to set up His kingdom He’s coming to take His people home to heaven! All believers, whether they had already died or were still alive on earth, will be raptured to glory! Is it not precious to see that “the dead in Christ shall rise first?” All those who had put their trust in Christ and yet had died, will be the first to go! Just as the Lord called Lazarus from the grave with a simple word, so these dear saints will be summoned to glory when they hear His shout. Their bodies, that had been “asleep,” will be awakened, changed, and reunited with their spirits. They will then be joined by living believers who will also hear the Lord’s triumphant shout. Having never experienced death they have no need to be awakened and reunited with their spirit, but they will be changed. We see this wonderful truth in 1 Corinthians 15:51 which says, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” Both companies of believers will then “meet the Lord in the air.” What a meeting that will be!

In closing I would like to ask you, “Will you be there?” We saw what fits a person for heaven in verse 14, for one must “believe that Jesus died and rose again.” Have you believed? If not, we would plead with you to act on Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”  (148.5)  (DO)