20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20–21, NKJV)
Citizenship identifies a person as a legal member of a nation. It qualifies that person to participate in the rights and privileges of that nation. In contrast to “the enemies of the cross of Christ” (“whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their minds on earthly things,” Phil. 3:18-19), Christians are qualified “to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Col. 1:12). By faith, we eagerly wait for the Savior’s return, living in hope of the glorious resurrection in anticipation of our heavenly estate (Heb. 11:14-16). Christ will subdue (subjugate, defeat) death in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:24-28). Kingdom citizens will be delivered up to God the Father to dwell forever in the eternal city of God (1 Cor. 15:23-24; Rev. 21:22-27). These great assurances compel the wise and faithful of heart to answer the gospel call to be saved, to become citizens of heaven (Acts 2:37-41; Col. 1:13). Christians set their minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:2). Let us live for the glory of heaven daily, not for things that end in destruction.
26 ‘Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’ (Acts 2:26–28, NKJV)
This quotation of Psalm 16:9-11 is applied to Jesus by the inspired apostle (Acts 2:25, 29-31). The King James Version of Acts 2:27 says, “Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell…,” leading some to ask whether Jesus went to hell when he died. The word used in verse 27 is hades (the grave or place of departed spirits), not gehenna (the place of everlasting punishment of sin, Mk. 9:43-48). The prophesy speaks of the resurrection of Christ. His body would not see corruption (Acts 2:31). His spirit would visit a place of Paradise or comfort, not a place of flaming torment (Lk. 23:43; 16:22-25). Jesus did not go to hell. He did not preach to spirits held in prison before He was raised from the dead (a misinterpretation of 1 Peter 3:19-20). The comfort of Paradise and the flames of torment are separated by a great gulf that is unmovable and not crossable (Lk. 16:26). There are no opportunities to obey the gospel call after death (Heb. 9:27). Death is coming to us all. We will all be resurrected, because Jesus was raised (1 Cor. 15:20-22). The question is, will we be raised to life, or to condemnation (Jno. 5:28-29)? That depends on whether we will believe and obey Jesus now (Heb. 5:8-9). What is decision? Where will you spend eternity?
30 And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? 31 I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (1 Corinthians 15:30–32, NKJV)
Our hope in Christ transcends this life. His empty tomb forever declares Him to be the Son of God with power over death, assuring us that we will be raised by His power in the last day (Rom. 1:4; John 5:28-29). Lives lived without hope in Christ are pitiable. There would be absolutely no reason to suffer deprivation or sacrifice one’s safety for the sake of Christ if the dead are not raised. What a pitiful existence that would be (1 Cor. 15:19-20)! The hedonistic culture of Corinth indulged the desires of the flesh because, after all (as the unbelievers reasoned), “tomorrow we die.” Indeed, that philosophy would be appealing “if the dead do not rise” (v. 32). But, such a view of life cannot and will not satisfy the soul (Matt. 16:26; Psa. 42:1). Our longing for meaning in life is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jno. 14:6). So, be strengthened in your faith and do not give in to fleshly allurements. Neither yield to false doctrines that deny the resurrection of the dead. Jesus was raised, and we shall be, too. Suffer every danger and sacrifice every comfort necessary to gain Christ, and attain to the resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:7-11).
Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:29, NKJV)
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use this verse to support their practice of baptizing for the dead. Was Paul referring to vicarious baptism of the living on behalf of the dead? If so, then some insurmountable problems arise. The Bible says there is one baptism, yet this would mean there are two baptisms – one for the living and one for the dead (Eph. 4:5). Personal faith in Christ and repentance are required before the great commission baptism (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38). Yet, the LDS practice consigns faith and repentance to choices the dead person must make in the spirit world. (Why should we think a living person can be baptized for a dead person, but not also believe and repent for the same dead person?) The great commission baptism is personal, but baptism for the dead is by proxy. Paul was not teaching proxy baptism. His context was the resurrection of the dead. Here is his point: If the dead are not raised, why are people being baptized on account of them? Why were people allowing a hope of resurrection lead them to be baptized “if the dead do not rise at all” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:12-19)? If there is no resurrection of the dead, just “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32). But, the dead will be raised, and our hope of eternal life in Christ is sure. This great truth was persuading people to be baptized. It ought to persuade you to baptized, too.
17 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. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:17–18, NKJV)
Paul continues to describe the return of Jesus Christ from the Christians’ point of view. What will happen to Christians when Jesus Himself descends from heaven “with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Thess. 4:16)? The dead Christians will rise, and then the living Christians will be caught up from the earth. Together, they will meet the Lord in the air. This is not an invisible rapture that so many believe will happen. No, the Lord is visible here (not invisible), the voice of the archangel is heard, and the Christians visibly join each other to meet the Lord. (This is the “change” from mortal to immortality of 1 Cor. 15:52-53.) The rapture is a false doctrine. “Thus” in verse 17 gives further proof of its error. “Thus” is an adverb of manner that means “in this way,” or after this fashion. So, in this resurrected and immortal state “we shall always be with the Lord.” There is no coming back to earth (it is no more, 2 Pet. 3:10-12). Death is abolished and the kingdom is delivered up to God the Father, not delivered back to earth seven years later (1 Cor. 15:24-26). We are comforted by the expectation of glorious reunion with the Lord Jesus and the saints who sleep in Him. This truth consoles us when death comes. The world can never offer such comfort (1 Thess. 4:13).
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thessalonians 4:16, NKJV)
With clarity and authority the apostle affirms the events of the return of Jesus. Paul systematically explains what will happen on that great day. The return of Jesus will be personal (“the Lord Himself”). It will not be invisible. There will not be a representative standing in His place. Just as He ascended, so shall He “descend from heaven” (Acts 1:9-11). With a shout He will command the dead to arise (Jno. 5:28-29). The archangel will lead Christ’s angelic attendants in this moment of power and victory (2 Thess. 1:7). The trumpet of God will sound, signaling liberty from death and the gathering of God’s people (1 Cor. 15:52; cf. Lev. 25:9-10 and Num. 10:3). Then, the dead Christians will rise first (before the living Christians, v. 15). Remember, Paul’s context concerns informing and comforting Christians about the saints who die before Christ returns (1 Thess. 4:13-15). Truly, every person will be resurrected from the dead when Jesus returns (1 Cor. 15:21-22). But, this passage gives particular comfort to Christians, assuring us that death will not deter our hope in the eternal glory we will share in with the Lord on that day (Col. 3:4; 2 Thess. 1:10). We do not sorrow without hope when death comes because we anticipate the coming glory of eternal reward (2 Tim. 4:8). Do you?
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15, NKJV)
The authority of Christ’s word must support what we teach. Paul knew this, and so he made it very clear that he was not giving his opinion about what will happen to Christians who die (vss. 14, 15). What we teach, including things about the return of Jesus, must be in harmony with His word (Matt. 28:19-20). With that assurance, the apostle tells why we do not hopelessly sorrow over the death of Christians (v. 13). It is because they will not miss out on anything that happens with Christ returns! In fact, the dead saints “will rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16). Then, the living saints will be “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:52). We do not know when the Lord will come, but we know that when He does, every saint – dead or alive – will fully participate in the glory of that moment (Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:4). But, it will also be a moment of fiery indignation – a fearful expectation of judgment – for His adversaries (Heb. 10:27; 2 Thess. 1:7-9). Do not be the Lord’s adversary. Serve the Lord faithfully, and you will be ready for the day He returns (1 Thess. 5:1-11).