The Meeting-Place in Resurrection

1 Thessalonians 4:13‑18  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 7
1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18.
I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16. 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:
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.
18. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Notwithstanding the number of tracts that have been written on the Lord’s coming, I have felt that there is the need of one containing a few elementary statements to direct the attention of christians to this portion of God’s truth. The great difficulty in the way of many of the Lord’s people is their confusion of two distinct events-the coming of the Lord in the air, and the coming of the Lord to the earth. The effect of this is practically to rob them of the enjoyment of their proper hope and portion, which is “to wait for God’s Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1: 10).
This portion of scripture was a new revelation given to Paul to correct mistaken views which the Thessalonians had about those who had died in the Lord. They thought that they would not enter into blessing as soon as themselves, and this was to them a source of grief. The Lord tells them not to sorrow is others who have no hope. He reveals to them the fact that when Christ should return in glory God would bring those who “sleep in Jesus” with him; they should be all together; there should be no advantage of the living over the dead saints, for “them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”
But how are they to get there? Who comes for them? Where is the meeting-place? Questions like these would be suggested to the mind when the revealed fact is received that the sleeping saints are to appear with Christ in glory.
From the 15th to 18th verses the answers to these questions are given. They are the explanation of verses 13 and 14, with a full revelation of that meeting-place in resurrection which God has told us of, to cheer our hearts, and to wean us from this present evil world.
I intend more especially to confine myself to this portion of God’s word, using other scripture only as bearing upon it. May the Lord guide us by the Holy Ghost as we meditate upon The Meeting-place in. Resurrection.”
1. The Person to be met, and where he comes from “The Lord from heaven.”
2. The persons going to this meeting-place, and where they go from. “We which are alive” (on the Two classes earth). “Those which are asleep” (in. their graves).
3. The summons to go there, and who gives the signal. The Lord himself ... . with the voice of the archangel and with the trump. of God.”
4. The locality where the meeting-place is to be. “In the air.”
5. The authority for the statement. “The word of the Lord.”
6. The use to be made of this portion of God’s word. “Comfort (or exhort) one another with these words.”
The first point is the Person to be met, and where he comes from. The Lord from heaven.”
God has not only saved us, but given us a blessed hope, a heavenly object. He has won our hearts by the exhibition of his love in Christ, and has made Christ to be precious to our souls. We have redemption through the blood of Christ, and a new life in him; but it is in order that Christ himself may be our portion, and that we may be with him forever, to the praise of the glory of God’s grace. Jesus, having accomplished redemption and having gone into the presence of God for us, is now seated upon the throne of his Father, crowned with glory and honor. There he awaits the gathering out of this world the church which he has purchased with his blood; and then, at the command of God, he leaves the throne of his Father and descends into the air, the place of meeting where his Bride ascends to meet him. The Person to be met is the Lord—yes, the adorable Lord Jesus, the one who dwelt from all eternity in the bosom of the Father, the one who was cradled in Bethlehem’s manger, the one who for three and thirty years trod the world of his own creation, the one whose hand was ever ready to meet the needy, and whose heart yearned over the outcast one; and, above all, the one who died on Calvary’s cross, was raised by the power of God, and is now sitting on the right hand of the majesty on high. This blessed one, this Lord from heaven, is the Person to be met, and from heaven, direct from his Father’s presence, he comes.
2. Who are the persons going to this meeting-place, and where do they go from? They consist of persons in two differing positions:— “We who are alive and remain,” “them which sleep in Jesus;” as it says in Corinthians, “ they that are Christ’s at his coming.” There will be those who are alive on this earth, living amidst others, but having, besides their natural life, spiritual life-life in Christ. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, they will be changed (1 Corinthians 15: 52), and caught away from among their fellow-men to meet the Lord from heaven. And how suddenly! as quickly as a moment passes, as quickly as the eyelid falls and rises again, so quickly will the transition occur. But then what about those who have died in Christ? Shall they miss this blessed scene? shall they be left behind? No; if anything, they have the precedence, though it is but a momentary one. The first action of the archangel’s voice is to awake the dead in Christ, “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” They shall only just have emerged from their hiding places, and have been, clad in resurrection-glory, when the living shall be changed, and all shall be caught up together.
Oh! what a meeting! what a blessed hope! No more separation, none missing, none left behind in the darkness of the grave. The sheep will have heard the Shepherd’s voice— “they that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth”— those alive changed, and they all go up together—yes, together; not in various detachments, as some have imagined; not some left behind to pass through the tribulation for their unfaithfulness. The Jewish remnant will have to pass through it but ere it occurs the church and Old Testament saints will be safely housed with the Lord.
Are only the Lord’s people to go up? Only those. Those others, who have no hope, are left behind. Reader, are you among the others who have no hope? Would you like to be left behind? Do you say, well! what if I am? The Lord will come after this to the earth in judgment, “to take vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:88In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: (2 Thessalonians 1:8)). But I may be dead. Well! what then? Left behind at the resurrection of the just, you shall have your part in the resurrection of the unjust; you shall hear Christ’s voice, and you shall come forth to the resurrection of damnation (John 5:2929And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:29)). The search for your name in the book of life being fruitless—the books testifying to your evil deeds—your eternal portion will be the lake of fire.
Why are you among the others who have no hope? Because you have not believed in God’s love in the gift of his Son. The life, death, resurrection, and all the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, are as yet nothing to you, except to increase your guilt and condemnation. May your heart be opened to receive Christ, that you may become a son of God by believing on his name.
3. The summons to go there, and who gives the signal.
It is a summons, as we have been seeing, that all in Christ hear and obey. It is called in Corinthians “the last trump,” which some think refers to the last of trumpets used in battle for marching; others believe it to have a reference to the jubilee trumpet. It is evidently Christ, armed with authority, summoning together those dear to his heart.
4. The locality where the meeting-place is to be. “In the air.” Mark well the place: it is not at Jerusalem, nor at the Mount of Olives: it is in the air. It is quite true that the Lord will come to the Mount of Olives, because God in-his word says so “His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives “ (Zechariah 14: 4); but that is not when we go up to meet him; it refers to a subsequent event; it is when we come with him, afterward, when he comes forth to deliver Israel and to set up his millennial kingdom. Thus, in the next verse (Zechariah 14: 5), it says, “The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.” Now, it is evident that to return with Christ we must first have been gathered to him. There must be the meeting in resurrection before there is the return with Christ. It is of all-importance to see the difference between these two events. We shall get confused and unscriptural thoughts, unless we see from God’s word the difference. And the practical difference consists in this at any moment this meeting-place in the air may occur. Scripture puts nothing between the christian. and the Lord; and an s stem of prophetic truth (however ingenious it may be) that says that this or that event must have before the Lord comes to Claim the People that he has purchased- with his blood, is not of God. If the christian thinks of his sins and sins and iniquities, he remembers Christ, who upon Calvary’s cross blotted them out by the shedding of his blood; if he thinks of his daily sins and shortcomings, he remembers him who appears in the presence of God for him. And what then? He has a hope which must be realized, he waits for God’s Son from heaven, his heart is upon the resurrection-morning; the language of his heart is, or ought to be, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” Thus Christ is everything to him; his past wants, his present necessities, are met by him, and the hopes of his new life are cherished by the thought of thus meeting him.
“This we say unto you by the word of the Lord.” Paul received this truth directly from the Lord, as he did that concerning the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11). Would the Lord have taken the trouble, or thought it needful specially to make this known to Paul, had it not been good for the church of God to enter into and enjoy the hope of the Lord’s coming? And yet how many Christians know nothing about it, looking forward to a good old age; and a grave at the end of it; -Bill God. places the christian on resurrection Found to start with, on the other side of death. See John 11:2525Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: (John 11:25). It is blessedly true, that, if the christian fall asleep in Jesus, his spirit is “with the Lord,” and “to depart and be with Christ is far better;” but is that the proper hope of the christian? No. The resurrection morning is what he waits for, because God gives him resurrection promises. When will he be like Christ, perfectly conformed to the image of God’s Son? Not until he sees him in resurrection. “We look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil, in 20. 21). Christian reader, you believe in the word—of God—why not believe all it says? You would be horrified if anyone doubted the truth “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin;” and yet this truth of the Lord’s coming is founded upon the same authority, it is revealed in the same word. But you say, There is a difference between essential and nonessential truth. You have no right to say so. It is a notion encouraged by Satan to shut up from the souls of God’s people much of his revealed word, but the soul that wishes to yield an intelligent obedience, knowing what the mind of the Lord is, must believe practically that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3: 16, 17).
6. The use to be made of this portion of God’s word.
“Comfort (or exhort) one another with these words.” Exhortation and comfort-two of the things specially marked as characteristic of useful ministry (1 Corinthians 14:33But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. (1 Corinthians 14:3)). How much the saint of God needs exhortation: exhorting one another: and so much the more as we see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:2525Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)).
The reception of Christ by the Thessalonians had caused them to pass through the waters of affliction. While they had the joy of the Holy Ghost as that which sustained and kept them pressing forward, and while it is the joy of the Holy Ghost to testify of an absent Christ, and to all the glories of his person and the perfections of his work, is it not part of this work, his coming again and the glory that is to be revealed in connection with that joyous time? It is not only the bride that says “Come,” but “the Spirit and the bride say, Come.” And is not the fact, that at any moment the Lord may come, that which may well dislocate our affections from this present evil world? His promise remains unchanged, though as yet unfulfilled, “I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there you may be also.” And when will he come? “Yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Hebrews 10:3737For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. (Hebrews 10:37)).
And what a source of comfort is the thought of that day! Then shall be raised the song of triumph, then shall the shout of victory be heard; no more sighing and sorrow, no more tears to wipe away, no more broken hearts that want binding up, no more beds of death where the sad farewell in broken utterance escapes the quivering lips. No! at that resurrection meeting-place one shout of triumph shall burst from the lips of the joyous conquerors: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” and then, with hearts turned upwards to the God of salvation, shall they thankfully exclaim, “Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”