If Christians instantly go to heaven when they die, how is
it that “the dead in Christ will rise” at the Lord’s reappearance as taught in
1 Thessalonians 4:16?
The apostle Paul makes it clear that believers go
immediately into the Lord’s presence when they die. He calls this being “away
from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8, NIV). Those who
are “dead in Christ” are called “those who have fallen asleep in him [Jesus]”
(1 Thessalonians 4:14), “those who have fallen asleep” (v. 15), and “those who
fall asleep” (v. 13). Sleep is stressed, not to indicate lack of consciousness
but because, for believers, death is simply the appearance of sleep.
The body is dead, and the spirit is with Christ. When Jesus
returns He brings these believers with Him (v. 14). Their bodies will be
glorified (made incorruptible) and reunited with their spirits “in the air” (v.
“For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised
imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable,
and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:52,53, NASB; read
the whole chapter).
— Ken Horn
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