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Sleepers in Jesus "Ascend" to Heaven
by Gregory John Monroe
12/07/2015 / Education
Many ignore Jesus' declaration that He will return for us. Instead, they say that when Christians die, they go straight to heaven in spirit form. When Jesus returns, they continue, our spirits return with Him in order to reunite with our bodies in the grave.
1 Thess. 4: 14 is usually cited to back up that assertion. It says "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him [spirits from heaven] those who have fallen asleep in Jesus."
Recently, this was brought to my attention in opposition to my belief that the soul is not a spirit that's separate from the body. I maintain that the soul is the totality of a person (Gen. 2: 7): physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. When the body dies, it's the soul that dies (Ezekiel 18: 4).
There is no such thing as going to heaven (or hell) upon death. The dead remain in their graves until the time of their resurrection, which brings me back to the above Thessalonian passage.
Its context is this: Because we believe Jesus died and rose (ascended) from death, we can have faith that God will raise us (cause to ascend) and bring us to heaven in like manner.
Contextually, this is reinforced by the verse (15) that comes afterwards: "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep."
The word "precede" is in reference to the order of meeting Jesus in the air. It doesn't mean coming with Him from heaven. In other words, those alive at Jesus' coming won't ascend to meet Him before those who are asleep (dead) in Jesus ascend to meet Him.
Finally, look at how the word "bring" is used in a similar passage, 1 Cor. 15: 15 "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord"
Obviously, "brought" means that God "raised" Jesus. "Bringing" Him from the grave and "raising" Him from the grave mean the same thing. And so it is with Thess. 4: 14; meaning that when the dead in Christ are "raised," they are "brought" with Him to heaven.
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