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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."
Observe, nothing is said of the wicked dead. If some of them also, at this epocha, arise from the dust of the earth,-as appears from Daniel, chap. xii. 2,--the Holy Spirit, in this place, confines his revelation to the dead in Christ, the emphatic
“ children of the resurrection," according to our Lord's expression.
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.”—Or, “ Then, together with them, we shall be snatched away' in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord.”
We remark here, that the dead are described as rising from the earth, and joining their living brethren, ere they are caught up to meet their triumphant Saviour. Their bodies, we know, were sleeping in the dust of the earth. This were enough to account for the phraseology here employed. The relation of height is not expressed in the original; but it certainly is the usual style of Scripture, to speak of the separate spirits of the just as tenanting also that abode of the dead, which is described generally as beneath, or under the earth, with respect to its surface. Thither, in his lamentation over him, Jacob thought he should go down to his son Joseph. The spirit of Samuel, that, by divine permission, appears to Saul, uses this remarkable language, “ Why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up?” Who can inform us that it was in accom
modation to vulgar errors, that our Lord described the situation of the happy Lazarus, though he lay in Abraham's bosom, as afar off indeed, but still as placed in the same regions with that abode of the wretched where the rich man lift
“ Far above," indeed, was the resting place of the spirits of the just, but not out of sight. So, at least, our Lord — before whose eyes hell and destruction were exposed to view—has chosen to represent it, and his description must be substantially true. It was not in heaven that Jesus, on the day of his crucifixion, went to fulfil his promise to the penitent thief, that he should be with himn in Paradise: he descended into hell, and rose not to the surface of the earth till the third day had dawned thereon ; nor, till forty days had run their courses,
, did he ascend from its surface to distant worlds above to the heaven of heavens, to sit at the right hand of God. “ Now, he that ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things?”*
Compare with this the following oracles already considered:
“ God rideth on amid myriads;
• Ephes. iv. 9, 10.
+ Psalm Ixviii.
“ Thy dead shall live, their dead bodies shall rise:
A buzz from a multitude of men!
gate, and are gone forth by it, And their King passeth before them, even Jehovah, at their
head." + “ And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall
awake," &c. 1 The risen dead, and those of the same redeemed family that are alive and remain,—they having been, in a moment, changed, as another Scripture will inform us, into glorified spirits, -are caught away together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. They meet him beyond the clouds, before his feet stand again upon the earth ; and this explains those many Scriptures that represent the saints as being with the great Redeemer when he comes again on the earth. Such, it appears from this Scripture, will be the fact : for they are summoned, whether from earth or from Paradise, to meet their Lord in the air, and are ever to be with him: so that when he is revealed in flaming fire to the unbelieving world, they are “ with him in glory.” Hence we see the fulfilment of the most ancient oracle: “ Behold, the Lord cometh with his holy myriads to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds, which they have ungodly committed, and all their hard speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” The apostle continués, ver. 18, “ Wherefore comfort one another with these words." This revelation was to be the source of their comfort respecting their departed brethren, whose untimely end, perhaps, they were bewailing. This was to be the topic of consolation in their exhortations to one another, in every afflictive circumstance of their pilgrimage.
+ Micah, ii.
1 Daniel, xii. 2
“ But of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.” *
The last words of their Master had forbade them to expect that a revelation would then, or perhaps ever, be made of the exact time when this great event should come to pass.
It would certainly take the world unawares, as Christ had himself said:
“ For yourselves know perfectly, that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night: for when they shall say,"-or, “ shall be saying, "_“ Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”
However, as we have seen in former prophecies, the people of God would not be altogether unapprized of the coming of their Master: if they know not the day nor the hour, yet they will have some intimation of its near approach:
“But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are the children of the light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober : for they that sleep, sleep in the night, and they that be drunken, are drunken in the night. But let
Chap. v. 1,
us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and, for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him."
2 Thess. i. and ii. with 1 Tim. iv. and 2 Tim. iii.
In the first chapter of the second epistle to the same church, * adverting to the persecutions and tribulations that they had endured, the apostle observes, "a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer.” Your suffering in his cause is an evidence that God will give you the kingdom, — he would not let you suffer for him, had he not a rich recompense in store,
“ Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
" When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance.” What light does this throw on former prophecies !
“ He shall rain upon the wicked lightning, fire, and sulphur.”+-" Thou puttest them in a furnace of
• Ver. 4, &c.
+ Psalın xi. 6.