1 Thess 4:13-18 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Everything about the Christian faith is founded on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is not only our Last Adam but also the New Adam. He has demonstrated to us what the New Man of the New Heaven and New Earth looks like and lives like. He also shows us what is our ultimate hope--the resurrection from the dead.
Sometime, Christians talk about "Heaven" as the ultimate destination of disembodied existence of all believers. But the truth of the matter (both from Scriptures and early church tradition) is that our ultimate destiny is the re-embodied existence on a New Earth. Paul describes the ultimate destiny of believers thus:
- 1 Thess 4:14-15: For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
Here Paul is saying that Jesus is coming back to earth. But he won't be coming back here alone--he will bring "with him those who have fallen asleep." The dead in Christ will rise when Jesus returns again and will together with Him descend to the New Earth to reign with Him. When Jesus returns, Heaven and Earth will fuse as one, so that we who will be raised with the new immortal bodies like Jesus' will be able to live in the new reality--a fusion reality of the New Heaven & New Earth. So we read of this fusion in Revelations 21:
- Rev 21:1-3 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
Paul describes death as falling asleep. And like sleep, we will awake the next day to face the new day. God has put within this present reality of sleeping and waking a hint of future reality of death and resurrection. At death, we fall asleep. At the resurrection when Jesus returns, we shall all awake to a New Fusion Reality of Heaven and Earth. And we will need the resurrection bodies to live in this New Reality--and it will be forever and ever with God dwelling among His people.
What a glorious hope! Not some disembodied existence up there in the clouds, but re-embodied existence down here on a New Earth. I'm looking forward to that!
Father, thank You that everything that happens here is to prepare us for the great and glorious day when we will see You face to face. Indeed, Jesus will be Emmanuel again--God with us--forever and ever! Amen.