1 Thessalonians 4:17
KJV - 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
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Great question, Reinhard! I'm persuaded that when we "bite the dust," we promptly enter the presence of the Lord. At some future time, we will be given new bodies, like the body Jesus had after His restoration. However, meanwhile, our spirits are with the Lord, and we are completely aware of being in His essence. This unquestionably appeared to be the Apostle Paul's expectation. He confronted numerous risks, and he realized that at any second his life on earth could end. In any case, he confronted demise with trust: "We are sure, I state, and would want to be away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). Somewhere else he announced, "I want to withdraw and be with Christ, which is better by a wide margin" (Philippians 1:23).
If you remember that Jesus, when he was on the cross, was with two thieves, one on his right, the other on his left. One of the thieves insulted Jesus saying that if he was the Son of God, come down from the cross and save yourself and us. However the other thief rebuked him, telling him that Jesus had done nothing wrong and was innocent but we are deserving of our crimes, after which he turned to Jesus and asked him to remember him when he goes into his kingdom. Jesus responded with one of the last things he said on the cross, that, “I tell you the truth, today you shall be with me in paradise.” Therefore every believer regardless of age, even babies immediately go to heaven at death. Additionally, after King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite, the child became very sick and for 7 days David pleaded with the Lord for the child. However after the child died, David told his servants that he would go to him (2 Samuel 12:23)
This is a question that I have thought long about. I lean towards being at rest until Jesus comes again. The scripture most used for the argument that we go direct to heaven is this, “I tell you the truth, today you shall be with me in paradise.” but punctuation was not added to the bible until long after it was put together and if you move the comma after 'truth' it reads completely differently and does not then imply that the thief will go direct to heaven, “I tell you the truth today, you shall be with me in paradise.” Just something else to think about.
There are countless Bible texts comparing death with "rest" or "sleep" which implies a state of unconsciousness and an awakening (Eccl 9:5, 6, 10; Dan 12:2, 13). In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, Paul describes Jesus' second coming, in which the dead in Christ will be raised first and then those who are alive will join them to meet the Lord in the clouds. Verse 16 makes it clear that this is not a secret rapture, but a very loud and public event (1 Thess 4:16). In my opinion, the Greek concept of soul immortality is not being taught in the Bible. Only God has immortality (1 Tim 6:16). The cause of death is sin (Rom 6:23). Genesis 3:4 records Satan’s first lie which is in total contradiction with God’s truth (Gen 2:17). The fact that humans (after they sinned) lost immortality is made abundantly clear in Genesis 3:22 when the access to the Tree of Life was blocked by an angel. John 3:16 gives only two choices: eternal life (for believers) or perish (for non-believers). There is no life outside Christ (1 John 5:12). There is no eternal life in hell for the soul of the wicked (Matt 10:28). At His second coming, Jesus will awake the dead from their tombs (John 5:28, 29). The text says nothing about Jesus bringing the saved souls from heaven or the lost from hell for this event. Just like Jesus, (called the first fruit or those who are asleep (1Cor 15:3, 4, 20) when we die, we “sleep” in the grave awaiting resurrection. Jesus after His crucifixion did not go directly to the Father but rested in the tomb until His resurrection (John 20:17). Finally, in John 14:3 Jesus said that is going to prepare a place for us and then He will return to take us to be with Him forever. This promise would make little sense if, upon death, the saints will ascend directly to heaven to be with Jesus.
I could not disagree courteously more with Aurel, when Jesus was on the cross he told the sinner to his left that (according to Luke 23:43) Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." THIS tells every Christian what you need to know and rest upon. When the silver cord is snapped, we will be with the Lord and we WILL have our immortal bodies. :)
Paul said, 'For me to live is Christ; to die is gain'. I believe that when the Bible mentions that a dead person is only sleeping, it is referring to the physical body and not the soul. Paul also mentioned on one occasion that he died and entered the third heaven and heard things that were not lawful to utter. If you count back from when he made this statement, you'll find he had been stoned at Lystra and left for dead. Also, John, the author of Revelation, encountered what he thought was deity and tried to worship him and found out he was one of his fellow brethren; also John saw the souls of them that had been martyred, beneath the altar, crying, 'how long before we are avenged?' ref. Rev. 22:8; Rev. 6:9; 2 Cor. 12.
In 1 Thess 4:15,16 it discusses the 'raising of the dead first'. As it has been discussed, the scriptures state that we sleep. If it were not so, there would be no need for the Lord to raise the dead in Revelation 11:18. And the nations were enraged, and your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.
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