Coming with the Saints

This will be my last installmenet on the subject of the present status of those who have died in the Lord. Grievers are usually curious about their loved ones. There is some comfort in a pastoral word about how our loved ones live in the presence of God around his throne. There is comfort in recognizing that we worship with the saints around that throne. When we sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” (the liturgical Sanctus) we join with the heavenly chorus that surrounds the throne. The church militant is one with the church triumphant.

While there is certainly comfort in these perspectives–and I relish them, meditate on them and enjoy them, this is not the ultimate hope of Christians. Even the saints around the throne are yet waiting for something more. The journey is not yet over. God has not yet redeemed the cosmos. Death has not yet been fully defeated. The dead have not yet been raised.

When Paul sought to comfort the Thessalonians over the death of some of the saints in the church there, he appealed not to their “intermediate” state (their present experience of the heavenly throne room) but to their resurrection at the second coming of Jesus. Just as we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, so we believe that God will raise those who have fallen asleep as well.

Paul says this in an interesting way. In 1 Thessalonians 4:14 Paul claims that “God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” Those who have died in the Lord will accompany Jesus at his parousia; the saints will come with him (1 Thess 3:13). They will share in the glory of that day, and their glory will be their resurrection as they receive glorified bodies. They will be like Jesus, the new human (Phil. 3:20; 1 Cor. 15:49). Those who are still alive will be changed (transformed) in the “twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:51).

The new creation will be complete as human beings live upon the new earth with new bodies. We will meet the Lord in the air, the earth will be refined by fire, and the “new Jerusalem” (the bride of Christ) will descend upon the earth united to her bridegroom. There, upon the renewed earth, God will dwell with his people as a husband dwells with his wife. Hope realized. Community restored. Everything new. Humanity together again. God and Humanity mutually indwelling each other. The journey completed, but only just beginning.

4 Responses to “Coming with the Saints”

  1.   Dee O'Neil Andrews Says:

    So, what do you think about the “left behind” series of books? I don’t know if you’ve read any of them (I haven’t, I admit, and have no desire to read them) or have considered what all they have had to say (which I just know from reading ABOUT them and in talking with certain relatives by marriage who have been caught up in them and highly promoting them.

    Also, my two sons who were raised in the c of C now believe that Jesus will come down to reign on earth, etc (which is not a c of C. “position” as I’ve always known it, anyway). In other words, I guess they are “milleniumists” (or is that the proper term?).

    As for me – I try to focus the vast majority of my energy on living as I should TODAY and leaving those things of contemplation and opinion and supposition to others.

    I suppose I try to be practical about Christianity in that I try to live as best I can for the Lord in whatever time I shall be allotted here on earth and leave all of the unknown things to God. Not that I don’t think about those things or believe that they’re not important. I just try to “do good” and to understand the things that Christ made perfectly clear first. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s always worked for me in a good way (I think and hope, anyway).

    But, I would like to know your thoughts on that series since so many books have been sold and since so many people seem to be caught up in the subject (and even some movies made from them, too, from what I read, although I haven’t seen any of those, either).

  2.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    I have only read snipets of them, I’m afraid. Enough, perhaps, to know the eschatology it embraces in the context of what is generally believed by theologians of that persuasion.

    As novels, I can make no judgment. As theology, I don’t buy the “dispensational premillennialism” in the novels.

    That Jesus will reign on earth, I affirm. I believe God will renew and redeem this earth, and the bride and the bridegroom will dwell on this earth together. Not for a 1000 years….but rather forever, a reign without end.

    Indeed, this was the position of Alexander Campbell, Robert Milligan and David Lipscomb. Those names are pretty good company in the annals of Churches of Christ. James A. Harding believed that Jesus would reign for 1000 years but then he would turn the kingdom over to the Father who would reign on earth eternally. Such thinking among Churches of Christ was excised in the 1920s-30s.

    But ultimately I don’t think it really matters what kind of millenialist we are, whether a, pre, post or pan (it will all “pan out” in the end). What matters, as 2 Peter 3 reminds us, is how we live in the light of the coming and present reign of God. What matters is how we participate in the reign of God now as we anticipate, yearn for and pray for the coming of the full reign of God–whatever exact form that may take. Staying practical is not a bad strategy.

  3.   Mick Porter Says:

    Hi John Mark, I’m enjoying reading your blog – great choice of blogspot theme too (same as mine). Still looking forward to you coming to Brisbane one day!

  4.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    I appreciate your thoughts. Having said goodbye to my father, my son, and now my younger brother, I am tired of the pain… …but I keep hope because Jesus Christ has been crucified and resurrected as the first born from teh dead and is coming back again to complete teh task of making the old new. I hope and long for his return.

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