THE RAPTURE AND RESURRECTION OF BELIEVERS

THE RAPTURE AND RESURRECTION OF BELIEVERS

This is when believers who have died and are in heaven will receive resurrected and glorified bodies while those believers who are living at the time of the rapture will experience this change without first dying:

“I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain”(I Cor. 15: 50-58).

Here we are told that our physical bodies must be changed before we enter God’s kingdom. Paul is about to unveil a “mystery” to us. A mystery here does not mean something hard to figure out, but rather a truth not fully revealed until now. Here   we are told not all believers are going to die before this change takes place and that it can happen at any time, “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye”, instantaneously.

The rapture will bring about the completion of the believer’s salvation. The Bible presents two aspects of salvation. The believer in Christ is saved now: “It is by grace you HAVE been saved” (Eph. 2:5). The believer in Christ is saved NOW. He is no longer under condemnation and has become a child of God.

The Bible also presents a future aspect of salvation. This refers to the completion of salvation when our bodies are glorified. The believer has now been saved from the PENALTY of sin. This is referred to as the “firstfruits” of salvation. This is the present aspect of salvation. But there is a future aspect of salvation when we will be saved from the PRESENCE or EFFECTS of sin. This is presented in Rom. 8:22-23: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, THE REDEMPTION OF OUR BODIES”.

While believers are saved spiritually we still live in fallen bodies. While our redeemed spirits are connected to Christ, our present bodies are still connected to Adam and the fall. The word “firstfruits” means that we have received some of the benefits of salvation but more is to follow.

As the new birth is the impartation of eternal life to our spirits, the rapture and resurrection is the transformation of our bodies. We are told in Rom. 8:19: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be REVEALED. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God”.

Here we are told that all creation waits in eager anticipation for the sons of God to be revealed, or made known or obvious. All believers are now the sons of God but it is not known or obvious now. All creation waits for the glorification of the sons of God because this is the first step to the lifting of the curse from the whole creation.

While the believer is saved spiritually he groans within his fallen body for the completing of his salvation—his glorified, sinless, ageless, deathless body; a body that is designed for his redeemed spirit and renewed creation, and that can stand in the presence of God. The believer’s glorification is put on hold until we have finished our calling in this present life of bringing others into the kingdom.

The time of the rapture is unknown except for the fact that it is imminent. It can happen at any time. When Christ rose from the dead He began the order of the first resurrection (I Cor. 15:20). The “First resurrection” refers to believers, while the resurrection of the unsaved will occur a thousand years later at the Great White Throne Judgment seen in revelation 20: 11-15.

1 Cor. 15: 20-24 tells us: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father”.

Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the “firstfruits” because those who believe in Him will follow Him in their own resurrected bodies that will be patterned after His resurrection. All believers will take part in this, the First Resurrection. All the unsaved will take part in the Second Resurrection, which will take place after the Millennium, when the unsaved are cast into the Lake of Fire. These two resurrections will encompass all mankind. Everyone will appear in one of these two resurrections.

Those who are IN Christ are destined to be LIKE Christ in His resurrection body. This is referred to in I John 3:2: “Dear friends, now are we the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is”. When Christ comes in the rapture, He will bring with Him the souls of those in heaven who have died “in Christ”. He will stop in the air and these souls will continue down and enter into their bodies that are in the graves, the Lord will then give the command to rise and their bodies will rise from the graves, then they, and the believers who have not died, will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. Their first sight of Christ will change their bodies to be like His glorious resurrected body:

“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. 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 will we ever be with the Lord. Therefore encourage each other with these words” (I Thess. 4: 16-18).

Here in 4:16 we are told that the Lord will descend from heaven and He will bring with Him the souls those believers who have died with Him. The Lord will stop His descent in the air, while those saved souls with Him will continue to descend and will enter their bodies that are in the graves.

Then the Lord Jesus will give a “shout” of command which corresponds to the “loud voice” of Jesus in John 11:43 when the Lord raised Lazarus from the dead: “Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!” This is a foreshadowing of the great day when Jesus will call each believer by name to meet Him in the air. The “voice of the Archangel” is that of Michael, who will give the cry of triumph over the host of fallen angels who have sought to hinder the children of God. The trumpet call of God refers to a military command that awakens soldiers to arise and move on. We       are to move on to eternal realms with Him.

Continuing in verse 16, “The dead in Christ will rise first”. Their bodies shall rise up from the graves and stand on the earth with the living saints. In verse 17, both groups, those who have risen from their graves, and those living will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, where we will be with Him forever.

Everyone who shares in this great event will have heard the voice of the Son of God twice. Jesus said in John 5:25: “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live”. Here the Lord is referring to a spiritual resurrection when the spiritually dead will be given eternal life. Then in John 5:28-29, the Lord goes on to refer to the physical resurrection: “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out . . .”.

All those who have heard the voice of the Lord calling them from darkness to light will one day hear His command to receive their glorified body. Today they have eternal life in their spirits. But their spirits still dwell in fallen bodies, but in due time God will remedy this.

Paul refers to this in II Cor. 4: 6-7. In verse 6 he writes , “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”. Here Paul refers to eternal life that every believer possesses. He goes on in verse 7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us”.

Here we are told that believers have the treasure of eternal life in frail, fallen bodies (jars of clay) so He gets the glory. But the day is appointed when God will change these bodies to be fitting vessels for the treasure of eternal life.

The Holy Spirit’s indwelling is the assurance of the believer’s future glorification: “And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you” (Rom. 8:11).

In I Cor. 15:42-49 a description of the resurrection body is given in great detail.

“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. 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.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven”.

Here our dead bodies are likened to seed sown in the ground. It is sown or buried perishable, rotting, but it will be raised imperishable, not subject to decay, but eternal. It is sown in dishonor, food for worms, but it will be raised in glory, free from the defects of the curse and the fall and glorious like Christ’s resurrection body. It is sown in weakness, nothing is weaker than a dead body, it will be raised in power, not subject to death, disease, weakness, or weariness. It is sown a natural body, part of this fallen world, it will be raised a spiritual body, sinless and not part of this fallen world, and not subject to physical or natural laws.

Verses 45-50 contrast Adam with Christ, and those who are “in Adam” and those who are “In Christ”. Here Christ is called the “last Adam” because as the first Adam is the head of the old, fallen creation, Christ is the head of God’s new creation. Adam became a living soul, but through sin his life principle, which was passed on to his descendants, became corrupted and earthly and part of the fallen earthly system. But Christ is a life-giving spirit. Those who belong to Him receive His life through the new birth and are a new heavenly creation.

The first Adam is the head of the fallen race of the earth, “earthy” and all his descendants are also earthy, belonging to the present world system under condemnation. But Christ is the head of the new redeemed “heavenly” creation, and all who belong to Him are also heavenly, belonging to the new creation. But while believers are born again spiritually because of their living connection to Christ; they still possess fallen bodies that are still connected to Adam. So verse 49 tells us that as we have born the image of the fallen race in our physical bodies, we shall bear the image of Christ physically when our bodies are transformed at the rapture.

Verse 50 explains that this physical body must be changed in order to have part in the kingdom of God. Believers have been changed spiritually and at death their spirits go immediately to heaven but their bodies must await a change to make them fit for heaven.

Verse 51 tells us that not all believers will sleep or die (believers bodies are said to be asleep rather than dead because they will be awakened at the rapture). The generation of believers living at the time of the rapture will not die, but will be changed along with those who have died.

Verse 52 tells us that this change will take place instantaneously. The “twinkling of an eye” is the time it takes between seeing Jesus and recognizing Him. When a relative or close friend comes to your house and you open the door and see him you recognize him immediately, although it really took time between seeing him and recognizing him, but the time is so small as to be instantaneous. When we first see   Him and recognize Him we will be transformed into His image.

Verse 53 tells us that those believers whose bodies are perishable while in the             grave will be clothed with imperishable bodies; while the living believers who are mortal and subject to decay will receive immortal bodies. Then we are told in verses 54-55 that then death will forever be swallowed up in victory.

Then in verse 56-57 we are told how and why this will happen. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

The cause of death is sin: “Therefore just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin”(Rom. 5: 12).

The power of sin is the law: “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for anyone who believes” (Rom. 10: 4).

 

Another passage of Scripture dealing with the rapture is I Thess. 5: 1-10.

In I Thess. 4:13-18 Paul deals with the rapture itself and what would happen to those believers who have died. Now Paul would deal with the tribulation and its relation to the coming of the Rapture: “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you, brothers are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness, so then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (I Thess. 5: 1-10).

Here in verse 1 Paul tells them that there is no need to write to them when the Day of the Lord, or the tribulation, will take place. For they know perfectly well that no one knows the time for it will come as a thief in the night (verse 2). It will be a time when sudden destruction will come upon “them”, the unsaved (verse 3).

But believers are not in darkness that that day should overtake them. Believers are children of light and of the day, in contrast to “them” in verse 3, who are of the night and of darkness (verses 4-5). Eph. 5:8 reminds believers, “for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, live as children of light”. Believers were at one time in darkness, but by faith in Christ they are now light in the Lord”.

The world, in Adam, is in darkness and in the night. It is the time when people get drunk and sleep. It is fitting that unbelievers do these things because they are of the night and the tribulation will overtake them. It is a day of darkness for the children of the night. “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand—a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness” (Joel. 2:1-2).

However, believers are children of the day. People do not normally get drunk and sleep in the day, and believers should not imitate the unsaved (verse 7). They are stupefied by either sleep or drunkenness and unaware of their danger.                    6.

God did not appoint believers to suffer wrath. The context here is referring to the wrath of the tribulation. But God has appointed believers to salvation at the rapture (verses 9-10), before the tribulation and darkness overtakes the children of darkness. Christ died for us so that whether we are “awake” (living) or “sleep” (dead), refers to the living and the dead who will be raptured together.

We are told that on the night before Jesus was crucified, Judas went out from them into the night to betray the Lord and Jesus tells the rest of His disciples that they would all abandon Him, and Peter would deny Him three times that very night. But instead of thinking about Himself, the Lord’s concern was for His disciples.

In John 14:1-3 He says to them: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am”

Here in verses 2-3 Jesus uses the words of an oriental wedding to describe His relationship with His Bride, the Church.

The steps of an oriental wedding were:

1.Engagement. The Bridegroom was engaged to the bride by paying a Dowry.

I Cor. 6:20 says concerning believers, “you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

  1. Preparation for the marriage. The bridegroom would give a ring to his bride as a guarantee of marriage. It was a sign that she belonged to him alone. Eph. 4:30 says concerning believers, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you are SEALED for the day of redemption”. The seal is God’s sign of ownership. The bride would continue to live with her parents and the bridegroom would go to his father’s house to add on rooms for his bride’s coming.

In II Cor. 11: 2 Paul says of those he won to Christ, “I am jealous for you with a Godly jealousy. I promised you to one Husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him”.

  1. The marriage. When a place in the father’s house was prepared, the father of the bridegroom would say to his son: “Son, go get your bride!” Then the bridegroom would come for his bride and take her home to the father’s house.

First Jesus loved us. Then He paid the dowry on the cross. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed . . . . . but with the precious blood of Christ” (I Pet. 1:18). The sign of this engagement is the Holy Spirit given to the believer as a “deposit” or “guarantee” of marriage. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory” (Eph.1: 13-14).

After His resurrection the Lord returned to His Father’s house to prepare a place for us. Believers do not each have their own mansion in heaven. The truth is far more precious, there is only one mansion—the Father’s house, in which Jesus is preparing rooms for His children.

When these rooms in the Father’s house are prepared, the Lord will return to receive His loved ones in the rapture and take them to the Father’s house. After the rapture of believers the tribulation will take place on earth while believers will be appear before the Judgment of Christ to receive rewards for service. Salvation is through faith in Christ alone, but rewards are for service done for Christ after being saved. Paul sums up the teaching on the rapture in light of our appearing before the Judgment Seat of Christ for rewards:

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (I Cor. 15: 58).

Prophecy in the Bible is not given to satisfy curiosity but to motivate us to live holy lives of service and devotion for God. Note how the following exhortations are connected with the Lord’s coming for believers:

Col. 3:1-4: “Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory”.

Titus 2:11-14: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and purify for Himself those that are His very own, eager to do what is good”.

I Thess. 3:12-13: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone one else, just as ours does for you. May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of God the Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all His holy ones”

These passages teach that the truth of the Lord’s coming for His own should motivate us to be heavenly minded and separate ourselves from the things of this world. We are to be unyielding in our faithfulness to God, and encourage other believers to do the same. We are to be zealous of good works and be prepared at all times to witness to others and win them to Christ.

Believers are not of this world but part of the new creation, but we are left here among the old creation to represent the new. Believers are IN this world, but not OF

This world. In John 17:14-18, we are allowed to eavesdrop on the prayer of Jesus to the Father on behalf of those who belong to Him: “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

So we see that believers are not OF this world, even as Jesus is not of this world. Jesus is the Head of the new creation and believers are “in Christ” and therefore members of the new creation. But we are left in this world as ambassadors for Christ to represent the kingdom of God. When God calls His ambassadors home at the rapture, He will declare war on this world.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21).

Heaven

HEAVEN                                                                                 1

“ However do not rejoice that the spirit’s submit to you but rejoice that your names are written in heaven”.

Our Lord had sent His disciples out on a preaching tour. He gave them power over demons and to heal the sick. They returned rejoicing and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name. Jesus replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:17-20).

Christians should think about heaven far more than they do. Col. 3:1-4 tells us: “Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things, for you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears then you also will appear with him in glory”.

In the original Greek it has the thought of an ongoing process. “Keep on setting your mind of things above, so that you can anticipate and look forward to and prepare for them. It is an intense and fervent seeking of the things above. We are to diligently pursue an understanding of heaven. Our thoughts should lovingly and longingly dwell on Jesus.

We should rejoice because our names are written there as citizens of that heavenly realm. This short struggling life is incidental compared with eternity. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Cor. 4:17-18).

This world is not the home of the children of God. We are only sojourners here, temporary dwellers in a land not ours. “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).

“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves” (Col. 1:13).

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” (Eph. 2:19).

Heaven is our real home and our treasures should be there as well. Our thoughts should dwell on that sweet home of God, the holy angels and the departed saints: “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Heb. 12: 22-24).

It is tragic that so many of God’s people live in fear of death. How this dishonors our heavenly Father. It is His will that we face death with assurance and confidence.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psa. 116:15). If we know Him who conquered death, there need be no fear or dread, for death will only hasten us on to glory. The prophet Hosea recorded God’s promise: “I will redeem them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death” (Hosea 13:14).

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).

The resurrection of Christ transformed forever the nature of death for those who place their faith in Him. At last we will be with the One we were created for in the place we were created to be. We were not meant for this present world, we were meant for heaven. God has put within mankind the sense that this life is not all there is. The Bible gives the reason for this, “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

The reason there is this inner conviction that death is not the end and that heaven exists is because God put this conviction in our hearts when He created us in His image.

One of the reasons there are so many Christians who do not reach others for Christ is because they do not feel secure themselves. If a person is unsure of their own footing they are in poor condition to rescue others who are drowning. They must first be sure of their own footing.

Paul said, “I know whom I have believed and, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day” (II Tim. 1:12). He had assurance.   “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Many Christians cannot understand why they are so lacking in spiritual power. It is because they have their treasures down here. It is not necessary for a person to have many possessions to have their treasure down here. It is not what a person has, but what his heart is set upon.

“It is to our great loss that we fail to live under the influence of eternal things. So many of us are digging in the dirt for worthless things of this world when the crown of gold is above our heads. We are earth-bound. Our minds are set on things below and not on the glorious and enduring treasures above; living as though we are going to be here forever. We seem to forget that our days are numbered and will vanish like a vapor, and that our eternal home lies beyond. We do not rejoice in the old hymn, “Our heart is in heaven, our home is not here”.

A clearer vision of heaven will expose the emptiness of the things of this world, and set our hearts on the heavenly and eternal things above. We will function better here if our hearts are there. We will have a truer perspective and greater sense of values. We will not mistake the artificial treasures that perish for the priceless treasures that will endure forever. Our Lord taught us to “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:20).

We are not reaching the world for Christ because believers themselves have been conformed to the world and have become worldly minded. We must be constantly exhorted to live for heaven because so much of our treasures are down here.

Where is your treasure? In Heb. 11:13-14 we are told that the saints of old saw these promises of a heavenly country “from a distance”. It reads: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised: they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own”.

The saints of old refused to settle down in this world, but lived with the heavenly country always in view.

“In Heb. 11:10, speaking of Abraham it says: “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God”.

From the moment that Abraham, by faith, saw that city, he declared himself a pilgrim and a stranger on this earth. As Abraham journeyed to the Land of Canaan, he knew that it was not the ultimate goal. And when he arrived there he still continued to live in tents, because he knew that the real goal was that heavenly land of promise.

The rich, fertile plains of Sodom had no temptation for him. He declared that he saw another country. He had turned his heart from the fleeting world and all its temptations. He has something better. He had his eyes fixed upon a city that would endure when the things of this world were swept away. He set his heart upon that city and laid his treasures there. How poor a man is, no matter how much he has laid up in this world, if he has no treasures in heaven.

Many of God’s people make the mistake of looking for their rewards down here and become discouraged when there are none. A missionary who had buried his wife and two children in Africa, greatly discouraged was returning home to America with broken health to recover. On the same ship was then president Teddy Roosevelt returning from a hunting trip.

Hundreds were waiting to welcome him home. As the missionary looked upon that scene he whispered, “Lord, I have sacrificed everything and no one is here to welcome me, while this man returns from a mere hunting trip and hundreds are here to welcome him home. When he stepped off the boat he heard the gentle voice of God say, “Ah, but son you are not home yet, you are not home yet”. Let us remember that the reward lies beyond. It is enough to know that we are serving the One who gave His all for us. We are to serve here and the rewards come after.

To Christians who are suffering with great pains and loses in this world, Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”. Your day is coming when He will transform your suffering into glory. Press on a little longer, doing what you can for His cause, while anticipating being with Him when glory will burst through the dark clouds in a glorious day that will never end.

Our heavenly Father has assured us that, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psa. 116:15). And that the believer can say “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” and that to “Depart, and be with Christ . . .is far better” (Phil. 1:21, 23). He tells us that “All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present or things to come” (I Cor. 3:21). Here we are told, that among other things, death belongs to His saints. It is our servant, conquered by Christ. Death is the terrible enemy of the unbeliever for it ushers him into the realm of eternal woe. But the believer is ushered into the presence of Jesus Christ.

Safe in Christ the believer can cry out: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”(I Cor.15: 55). The assurance to the believer is that “To be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). Heaven is the Father’s house. It is the glorious place toward which the dying saint lifts his eyes with joy. The Lord Himself is with the believer in the hour of death in a special way. He said: “I am with you always” (Matt. 28: 20). And “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb.13: 5). Although we know that He is with us always, there is a special sense in which the Lord is very close to the believer when he or she faces death. It is not really death at all, it is life.

As john Newton lay dying someone said to him, “Well, you are still in the land of the living”. “No”, he said, “I am in the land of the dying yet, but I will soon be in the land of the living”. This is the land of sin and death and tears, but there they never die. It is perpetual life. It is never ending joy.

The English scientist Sir Michael Faraday, the discoverer of electro-magnetism, was asked on his death bed, “What speculations do you have on life after death?” He replied, “Speculations? I have no speculations, I am resting on certainties”.

Mary Slessor, the missionary, on her death bed said, “do not talk of the cold hand of death, it is the hand of Christ”.

The missionary, Joseph Neesima’s last words were, “Peace . . . Joy . . . Heaven”.

When Adoniram Judson, the great missionary to Burma, came to his dying hour, he said, “I fell like a schoolboy bounding for home”.

When death was imminent for Richard Baxter, someone asked him how he felt, he whispered “I am almost well”.

When Thomas Fuller came to his last moments he said to his nephew, James Cuthbert, “Good night James . . . but it will soon be morning”.

Catherine Booth’s last words were, “the waters are rising, but I am rising higher”.

Samuel Rutherford said, “Oh, how sweet and glorious our case will be when that fairest among the sons of men will lay His fair hand to our sinful eyes and wipe away all tears. O time, run swiftly, and hasten that day”.

As his life ebbed away, the great evangelist D. L. Moody said, “If this is death, it is sweet, it is beautiful. This is my coronation day, earth recedes, heaven opens, God is calling and I must go”.

As a man and his son went over a long, narrow bridge over a broad river in the dark, the boy cried out “Daddy, I am afraid. His father took him in his arms. The boy fell asleep, to wake up the next morning in his own bed. That is what death is like for the believer. He falls asleep and wakes up at home.

We do not need to know any more about heaven than that God is waiting there to welcome us. It is His express desire that we share heaven with Him. The Lord Jesus said, “That where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).

The Scriptures give us added information about heaven. First of all, Heaven is a real literal place prepared by God. Concerning Abraham, we read: “For he was looking forward to the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).

“Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He hath prepared for them a city” (Heb.11: 16). Who can conceive of a city built by God? It is beyond all human comprehension! Nor can we grasp the concept of a continuing city. Every- thing on earth decays and fades away.

I Pet, 1:4 refers to Heaven as “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade- kept in heaven for you. In the Scriptures earth is described as a place that is unstable and fleeting, Heaven is a place that is stable and eternal, “Here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14).

Heaven is spoken of as the believer’s home, “At home with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8). “In My Father’s house are many rooms”(John 14:2). Here the Lord does not tell us that we will each have a mansion in Heaven. No, what He says is far better than that.

There is only one mansion—the Father’s house. Believers will have rooms in the Father’s house. As His children our permanent dwelling place will be in our heavenly Father’s house! Home is the dearest place on earth to the human heart, a place of acceptance, love and security.

Multiply all the best things of home to the last degree and you will have a faint idea of what it will be like when we are forever “at home with the Lord”. “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psa. 23:6). At last we will be dwelling with God—a communion that will never be interrupted for all eternity! In the Book of Revelation, describing heaven, John says: “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22).

There will be no need for a temple to have access to God, for we will be forever in the direct presence of God. In Romans 8:18 we read: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us”. All the suffering of a lifetime cannot be compared to one minute in heaven. On the other hand it can also be said that a lifetime filled with happiness cannot be compared to one minute in hell. No truer statement was ever made than “Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last”.

There will be the absence of all bad things and the possession of everything good. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be there God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev.21: 3-4).

There will be no taint of sin there. No death, no growing old and infirm. All these things will be banished forever.

It is a place of peace and beauty, of joy and glory. We will be free from any hindrances to perfectly love Him in return. We will then honor Him and worship Him without any flaws; no hindrances from the old, fallen Adamic nature.

We shall serve Him. Heaven will not be a place of “plenty of time but nothing to do”. There will be much activity in Heaven. “His servants will serve Him” (Rev. 22: 3). Many get a false idea of lying around on clouds. It is true that “They will rest from their labor” (Rev. 22: 13).

But the word for “labor” here means “a painful strain” something that is never experienced in heaven where eternal, untiring youth and strength will be ours in carrying out service for God. We will enjoy our work. We will accomplish more in one hour than we did in our lifetime here. Weariness and boredom will never be experienced.

The sum of heavens glory is to be with Jesus. “So we will be with the Lord forever” (I Thess. 4:17). Jesus and heaven are bound up together. To love Him and serve Him here is the beginning of heaven in the soul; to see Him face to face will be heaven complete and everlasting.

What a day that will be when we gather in the Father’s house and the holy angels sit spellbound as we give our testimonies of the love and grace of God.

It is no wonder that God has not revealed more about the glories and joys of heaven. It would spoil us for this world and we would not want to stay here another moment. Even with what we do know of this place, we sometimes grow homesick for heaven, but we have a purpose to fulfill here on earth.

The Christian view of death is totally different from the conception of those who do not know Him who is “The Resurrection and the life”. They speak of “the great beyond”, “the unknown”, “the unexplored land”, “a leap in the dark”. A Bob Ingersol, the noted atheist, stood at the grave of his brother and said: “Life is narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing”. He was simply expressing the hopelessness of his unbelieving heart. But our hope is in Christ.

For the believer death is no tragedy but a glorious homecoming. It is not the sad end, but the glorious beginning. It is but the passing out of one life into a higher and better one, an exodus from this wilderness of sin and pain and sorrow, into a land of beauty, fellowship, joy and peace. Death is the swift passage into the life with Christ forevermore. It is the passageway into the Holy City, a quick journey home, at home with God.

Believers are to look up and fix their gazes heavenward. Christ has conquered death for us, and has made it the corridor of life and immortality. Fear not what lies beyond the grave in the mystery of eternity, Christ is there! In the 23rd psalm, that well-known passage of Scripture, David, speaking for the believer refers to walking through the “valley of the shadow of death”. Shadows cannot harm us. Death has lost its reality and terror, it is a mere shadow, it has lost its sting.

“Where O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 15: 55-57).

One day a little boy came running to his mother screaming that a bee was after him. She covered him with her apron, until finally she said, “You can come out now”. He peeked out from her apron, “You see, the bee has stung mommy and has lost its stinger in mommy’s arm and cannot hurt you now”. He watched as the bee crawled harmlessly down her arm.

This is what Jesus has done for us. He has removed the sting of death by taking the stinger in His own heart and made it harmless for us. We can rest content in the words of our Lord’s high priestly prayer in John 17:24: “Father, I want those you have given Me to be where I am”. That prayer will be answered.

Those who belong to Christ have the assurance that when that day comes for them they will be more than ready to enter the Father’s house.

The assurance of heaven should make us better servants down here. It should free us from the pursuit of earthly pleasure and comforts. Christians are soldiers on the battlefield in a foreign land. Soldiers do not build mansions on the battlefield. They do not sit under palm trees fanning themselves. They are to fight battles. Their weapons are to be prepared and ready. Our battle is “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).

We will have peace there. Here we are to work. We are exhorted “Let us not become weary in doing good, for AT THE PROPER TIME we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

Heaven is ours, but there is work to be done and rewards to be won if we “do not become weary in doing good”. We must use whatever time and opportunities we have while we still can. Our Lord said, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). Some of us are farther along into the night of this life than others. We must use what time we have left to serve Him.

Heaven is the place of celebrating victories won, here is where we must win those victories. There we wear the crown, here is where we wield the sword. We are not to be as ease here. Lets us be faithful in testifying for our Lord and in separating from the worldly lusts that bog us down, and identifying ourselves with Him who is rejected by the world. May we realize that our lives are hid with Christ in God, and be found living out our days here below with an upward gaze.

To the unsaved: When the eternal God created Adam and Eve, He wove into their nature the hope of immortality which the succeeding centuries of sin and darkness were not able to erase completely from mankind’s inner being. God has put into man’s heart not only the consciousness of his limitations, but desires that take him far beyond his limitations. To perpetuate one’s name on earth is like writing in the sand by the seashore; to be lasting it must be written on eternal monuments.

If there is something in your heart that longs for something greater than this world offers, it was put there by God; it is a longing for Him. The only thing that stands between you and God is a Savior who was provided for us by God. The Lord Jesus Christ bore your sins on the cross. He paid the wages of sin for you. He rose from the dead and carries out the benefits of His death in behalf of those who trust Him. Whatever your preconceived ideas of God may be, He loves you and does not want you to perish. No matter how bad your past is He still loves you and wants to save you if you will turn from your sins and turn to Him.

You may say no to Him and die in your sins, but only because you choose to, and in the realm of darkness, the tender words of Jesus will forever haunt you: “You would not come to me that you might have life” (John 5:40).

No matter how miserable a person’s existence, they seldom want to die. Death carries with it a certain dread. From the day that the first couple laid their second born child in the grave, men have dreaded death. This mysterious enemy makes all quake with fear. It is no idle saying that “death makes cowards of us all”. But this fear has been removed for the children of God. The question of job: “If a man die, shall he live again”. Was answered by the empty tomb of Jesus who said, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19).

Death has been the great leveler of all men. Your worldly greatness and wealth mean nothing. Death has conquered all; all but One. Death was powerless against Him. He allowed death to claim Him for three short days for our sins. Death could not hold the Lord of Life, and neither can it hold those who belong to Him.

Jesus is the only way to heaven, and anyone who tries to come any other way will be bitterly disappointed. Here is eternal life for the asking. Eternal life is not some thing, but some One: “For he that hath the Son hath life, but he that does not have the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:12).