1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NIV)
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. 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.
Paul shares a great prophetic word with the church at Thessalonica as an encouragement for the believers there:
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV)
13 Brothers and sisters, 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.
And Paul’s words should encourage us as well! For Paul speaks of the Second Coming of Christ; and he confirms what the Apostle John would affirm: “Look, He is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of Him.” So shall it be! Amen. (Cf. Revelation 1:7) Indeed, there is a resurrection we have already experienced in Christ Jesus… a new birth through the Spirit of God … when we were raised with Christ from spiritual death. (Cf. Romans 6:3-5) But Paul and John both declared another resurrection … a resurrection of the dead that will take place at the return of our Lord Jesus … His Second Advent. As Paul explained:
1 Corinthians 15:42-52 (NIV)
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. 50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 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.
I am reminded that Jesus Himself affirmed that there will be a resurrection: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? (Quoting Exodus 3:6) He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Cf. Matthew 22:30-32) The Apostle Peter would also share these same words of encouragement:
1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Oh, I could keep citing more Scriptures regarding the certitude of our resurrection … our inheritance reserved in heaven through faith in Jesus Christ. But I hope the few I have shared are sufficient encouragement for you! We were given by God to His Son, Jesus, to receive this very gift of His grace. And this is the message of the Gospel we believe and have been commissioned to share with others! One final truth that I must share are the words of Jesus spoke to Martha before He raised her brother, Lazarus, from the dead:
John 11:21-26 (NIV)
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
All I can conclude is that there is no resurrection apart from Jesus. He IS the resurrection and the life! He is the author and sustainer of all life! He is the Alpha and the Omega … the beginning and the end … who formed us and created us for His pleasure and for His own glory. (Cf. Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11) Whatever ideas or thoughts we might have about life or death must ultimately conform to His Word. And so, I am greatly encouraged by His Word to us. I am at full peace with His Word … because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to Guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day … even my faith…. (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:12)