One room, two beds, two patients.
Two frail, elderly people share a room in a hospital ward. During the night there is a crisis with one of the patients. The nurses work hard in an endeavour to save the person’s life. A doctor lends assistance. Together the team take advantage of the latest and best high tech medical equipment. Despite all their efforts, the patient dies. Come morning, as the sun streams into the room, one patient can be awakened and one cannot.
This defines death from the human perspective. There comes a point where nothing humanly possible can be done to restore life to a lifeless body.
If a person can be awakened they’re asleep — they’re not dead. Therefore from God’s perspective, anyone God will wake in the future is simply asleep.
In the final analysis it all depends on the power one has to restore life, and God as the Creator of life has the clear advantage.
Resurrection of Jesus
Let’s look at the resurrection of Jesus. And take a closer look at the process of resurrection and ascension. It is obvious that Jesus’ resurrection occurred before his ascension. While dead He could not ascend to heaven. First came his resurrection — followed by his ascension.
The Nicene Creed confirms this order of events.
PROGRESSION — Resurrection of Christ
|(1)||DEATH||He (Jesus) suffered death and was buried.|
|(2)||RESURRECTION||On the third day he rose again|
|(3)||ASCENSION||he ascended into heaven|
Resurrection of the Redeemed
At the ‘resurrection of the redeemed of all ages’ the same order occurs — the resurrection occurs first and is followed by the ascension. The dead in Christ do not ascend to heaven while lifeless in the tomb.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 there is a clearly presented order of events.
PROGRESSION — Resurrection of the Redeemed
|1 Thessalonians 4:13-18|
|(1)||DEATH||Church members had concerns over believers who had died.||I would not have you to be ignorant concerning them which are asleep…(13)|
|(2)||RESURRECTION||The dead will be resurrected.||For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the 'dead in Christ' shall rise first. (16)|
|(3)||ASCENSION||All the redeemed will ascend to heaven.||Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. (17)|
|The redeemed will remain forever with the Lord. (17)|
|Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (18)|
Paul’s concluding statement contains great encouragement and simple reassurance! He says, “And so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18)
We need to complete the picture, so let’s not forget the living.
There are those who are alive when the Lord comes. (1 Thessalonians 4:17) They need no resurrection for they have never died. However they do need a transformation where the corruptible must put on incorruption, and the mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:53)
Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:54)
Jesus’ promise — “Behold, I come quickly, my reward is with me. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”
My response — “Amen. Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.”
Revelation 22:12-13, 20