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36. "Whitby." It is clear that Paul will recognize and rejoice over the Thessalonian saints when the Lord comes. He said, "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence or our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy." (1 Thess. 2:19, 2019For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? 20For ye are our glory and joy. (1 Thessalonians 2:19‑20).) It is well to be silent about points on which the word of God gives us no information. Is it not enough to know we are going where there is "no more death neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things have passed away?" (Rev. 21:44And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4).)
37. "Τ. H. F.," Southport. " And the dead in Christ shall rise first." (1 Thess. 4:1616For 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: (1 Thessalonians 4:16).) The Thessalonian believers who had been taught to wait for God's Son from heaven, were evidently surprised, and filled with sorrow, when some of their number died, or fell asleep in Jesus. This scripture was given to comfort them, and us, in like circumstances. It refers especially to those of the church of God who fall asleep. That we who are alive and remain until the Lord comes for His saints shall have no advantage or precedence over those who sleep in Jesus; for the first act will be the raising up of these saints from among the dead, before we are changed. "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air," &c, There is no danger of our being taken up, and leaving the precious dust of a beloved saint in the grave. How gracious of the Lord thus to comfort our hearts! As we stand at the brink of the grave, He whispers, Do not sorrow overmuch; I will not come and take you to glory, and leave that loved one behind. No, I will raise them first, and then you shall all come together to be forever with me. Oh, blessed hope! We take, then, the dead in Christ in this scripture to mean specially those who have fallen asleep in Jesus since the day of Pentecost.
"They that are Christ's." (1 Cor. 15:2323But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. (1 Corinthians 15:23).) This scripture no doubt includes all that are Christ's, not only of the church, but also the Old Testament saints; and the myriads of the little ones, for He came to save the lost. The distinct order of resurrection is thus revealed: " Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end," &c. More than eighteen hundred years have passed between the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of those that are His. And when the first resurrection shall be complete, a thousand years must intervene before the resurrection of the rest of the dead. (Rev. 20)
The meaning of Heb. 11:39, 4039And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:39‑40) is simple when we remember this was written to believing Jews or Hebrews. Neither their fathers in the Old Testament, nor themselves, had received the fulfillment of the promise; and not only so, God has provided, or foreseen, some better thing for us; that is the peculiar calling and glory of the church. This is not fully explained in Hebrews, as the church is not the subject of the epistle. But how much is implied in those few words, "God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." Both will be raised together. They are not yet perfected, that is in resurrection; but they will be, being Christ's at His coming. It is during the days of this period of His rejection that this better thing was foreseen; being now one with the man Christ Jesus in heavenly glory. Ephesians explains this better thing for us. Oh, the riches of His grace, for God to take out of a world which has rejected and crucified the Son, those for whom is provided that in which the saints of the Old Testament have no place! Some better thing. This could not have been said had they belonged to the church. They will, however, be in the glory, and of them it will be said, "Blessed are they that are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb." (Rev. 19:99And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. (Revelation 19:9).)
38. "A Constant Header," United States. Eph. 2:88For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Ephesians 2:8) has been often discussed by learned theologians. Whether, according to the grammatical construction of the passage in the Greek, the words, " it is the gift of God," refer to one or other of the words in the sentence, seems to us to be not of much importance to humble souls whose hearts are set on glorifying God. The great point in the verse is that our salvation is all of grace, and not on the principle of works, but on the principle of faith. All is of God to us in the way of grace.
39. "H.," Sheldwich. In the book of Joshua Israel is seen as a nation called to possess an earthly inheritance in conflict with flesh and blood, that is with living nations in Canaan. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, the church is seen not called to an earthly inheritance, nor to wrestle or fight with nations on earth; but "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." As Israel had crossed the Jordan, arid were blest with Joshua in possessing the land of Canaan, so the church has passed through death. "Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved); and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Where Joshua was, there was the place of Israel: where Christ is, there is the place of the church—in the heavenlies. And, in like manner, as Israel's conflicts were earthly, with man on earth, so ours is with the enemy in the heavenlies.
Only we would observe, that both the place that Satan has as the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience (Eph. 2:22Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (Ephesians 2:2)), and also the place that wicked spirits have still in the heavenlies, is greatly overlooked. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in the heavenlies." (Chap. vi. 12, margin.) Perhaps Milton's poetry has displaced from some minds these scriptures. But it is important to remember these facts of scripture. There is both a personal devil—Satan, the god of this world, and personal devils of great power in the heavenlies—ever seeking to overthrow us, and hinder our communion with our Lord Jesus Christ. But greater is He that is for us than all they that be against us.