1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV) — “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ shall 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. Therefore, encourage each other with these words.”
This is an amazing passage of Scripture. I listen and read a variety of sermons and Bible studies. I read the blogs and input on Facebook. It not only feeds my own spiritual growth, but it also helps me confirm the doctrine, faith and practices that I exercise.
For example: I’m not sure there is a universal acceptance or understanding in the difference of the ascension of our spirit and the resurrection of the body.
For me, our opening Scripture is full of hope. There will be a resurrection of the body. And there will be an inclusive rapture that includes both the living and the dead at the trumpet sound.
FYI — the word “rapture” isn’t in the Bible. The Apostle Paul says “caught up” — rapture is a church word to identify the event.
So, what about now, pre-rapture?
What I can do is share with you how I’ve worked through the Scriptures. It’s upon each person to work it out for themselves. I suggest beginning with prayer. Philippians 2:12b — “Continue to search out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
Some say that when you die, you do not immediately return to the Lord but remain in the grave.
I personally do not agree nor teach that, based on several Scriptures.
Genesis 3:19b — “For dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Keep in mind at this point that we’re not talking about the resurrection of the body or the rapture but the departure of your spirit, your inner being, upon the death of the body.
Genesis 2:7 — “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
Let’s continue with Ecclesiastes 12:7 — “Then shall the dust return to earth as it was and the spirit return to God who gave it.”
So, for me in my understanding, there is a clear and definite difference between the death of the body, the future need of the resurrection of the body, which is separate from your spirit returning to the presence of the Lord upon the death of the body. (At birth, we receive the breath of life. At death, with the final exhale, it returns to God who gave it.)
There are two Scripture passages that I claim for my hope in this matter.
Philippians 1:21-24 — “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart to be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”
I understand that to mean we are to live as fruitful laborers no matter how simple or elaborate, or how easy or hard our lives are.
I share the next Scripture in hopes of its own clarity: 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 — “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. We live by faith not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body, and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we’re at home in the body or away from it.”
There’s almost a natural impulse to point to the parable of Abraham’s bosom found in Luke 16:19-31, which is a symbolic way of illustrating Sheol/Hades from Paradise. Jesus mentioned Paradise in Luke 23:43 — “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
This is important: At this point, Jesus is on the cross. He hasn’t died nor resurrected. He, at that point, hadn’t been seated at the right hand of the Father. (Mark 16:19 — “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and He sat at the right hand of God.”)
Okay, from me to you, I hope this is helpful, perhaps as guidance or confirmation — as Iron sharpens Iron.