WELCOME TO THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

 

              WHEN DOES CHRIST RETURN?  PART FOURTEEN    
 

Death and Covenantal Transition:

       From this point forward in this series, when I use the word death I will be using it to describe eternal death (sin death) and not the normal and natural death of the physical/biological body that occurs because of our having been created mortal. 

       We see death as the penalty for sin being extant since the events that took place in the Garden of Eden. Paul taught that sin and death reigned from the time of Adam to Moses and has continued throughout time in that all men have sinned.

       Romans 5:12-14a: Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-- for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses.

       Paul relates how sin entered the world through Adam and produced death and the death it produced has come to all men because all men have sinned (See my essay on The Doctrine of Original Sin). Paul makes it clear that in order for there to be death there must be sin and for there to be sin there must be law. Since death has been in evidence since the time of Adam, it must be that sin has been extant since Adam with its accompanying penalty of death. 

       The “law that was given” is a reference to the Old Covenant law that God gave to Israel. This was a codified version of various laws that had been extant since creation with the addition of certain laws for Israel only. This law was never consistently obeyed and became known as a law of death because failure to obey it produced death just as disobedience to law produced death from the time of Adam to the giving of the codified law (Old Covenant Law) to Israel.  

       The Old Covenant required strict obedience to the law that defined that Covenant. That law was composed of the Ten Commandments, numerous other behavioral requirements, civil law and a variety of religious Holy Day and ceremonial statutes. Disobedience to that law, as is true of all God ordained law, was defined as sin and sin required death. Because Israel was unable to obey this Law in any consistent manner, the very law that was meant for their good became a ministration of death for them (2 Corinthians 7).  

       The corporate/collective body view (CBV) of resurrection discussed in Chapter Eleven sees the death of Jesus as facilitating a spiritual transition for Israel from being under the Old Covenant ministration of death to the New Covenant ministration of life. Gentiles are seen as being grafted into this transition thus allowing them to experience salvation/resurrection as well.  Resurrection is seen being raised out from under the Old Covenant ministration of death. 

       However, sin death is seen in evidence since Adam and Eve as Paul clearly taught in Romans 5 as cited above. Sin death didn't start with the Old Covenant. Resurrection from sin death is not just a matter of being lifted out from under the Old Covenant ministration of death. Ministration of death as the consequence for sin began way before there was an Old Covenant. What the Old Covenant did was make sin that much more apparent as Paul clearly points out.

        Resurrection in Scripture is seen as restoration of life that was/is lost due to sin. While the NT narrative shows such restoration to life is centered in covenantal transition, its origin is seen in Genesis where God told the serpent the seed of the woman would crush his head which is a reference to Christ's victory over death at the cross.  Christ's victory over death has made resurrection to life inevitable for everyone.

       Scriptures we have already covered and discussed in this series show that all humans are going to be resurrected. Resurrection from the dead is not an option. Paul said that all die in Adam and all are made alive in Christ. Both Jesus and Paul taught that there will be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous. Daniel, chapter twelve teaches the same. The question that is difficult to answer is what kind of resurrection are the unrighteous dead resurrected too? Is it an eternal life in some mode of eternal separation from God? Is it a resurrection to temporal life for the purpose of being judged?  If so, what might the outcome of such judgement be?  I discuss these issues in depth in my series on this website entitled "What Happens After Death." You may also want to read my three part series entitled "The Case for Universal Salvation." 

       Under the New Covenant, death is replaced with life through the Christ event. The death penalty for sin is paid for by Christ resulting in a transition to life.  This transition is actuated by the Spirit of God facilitating indwelling eternal life which for the believer leads to being given a spiritual body at the time of physical death.  As already discussed, the sacrificial death of Christ does not do away with physical/biological death.  It does away with staying dead. 

       2 Corinthians 5:17-19a, 21: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.

       God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

       The New Covenant brings life by bestowing the perfect righteousness of Christ on us so that before God we appear righteous. Therefore, we are no longer subject to eternal death.

      Romans 8:10: But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness.

       Paul said our body is dead as a result of sin which is certainly true.  The wages of sin is death. There is nothing here to suggest that it is anything but the death of the physical/biological body of flesh and blood that is meant. However, our spirit is alive because of righteousness.  The perfectly righteous Christ Jesus has destroyed sin and death by paying the death penalty for sin and being resurrected to life. His righteousness is imputed to us providing for our reconciliation with God.  At the time of our physical death we are given a spirit body that enters into the full presence of God. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul says this:

       Colossians 2:11-14: In Him you were circumcised in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.

       Paul shows that we were dead in our sins but made alive through Christ as a result of His resurrection from the dead. The implication is that we are alive now with Christ through resurrection. That is why we go through the ritual of baptism to demonstrate the movement from death unto life. Even though we remain in a physical state until our physical death, we already have spirit life dwelling within us. Christ appeared physically after his death to prove to the world that he truly was alive and had through His death paid the price of our sin. His resurrection was not to show that humans will be resurrected in the same manner, but to show that passing from death unto life was possible. Resurrection is all about our moving from a state of death to a state of life.

       Ephesians 2:4-5: But because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.

       John 5:24: Christ said: ‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my words and believes Him that sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.’ my word, he will never see death.

       Jesus says that believers will never die. Obviously all those that He was speaking to died physically. Jesus is showing that we can, in the here and now, have eternal life dwelling in us. This is tantamount to passing from death unto life. This is what resurrection is all about. Paul shows that it is because of law that sin occurs which in turn leads to death.  He then shows that through Christ death is eliminated. 

       1 Corinthians 15:55-57: Where, O death, is your victory? Where O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

       In a letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that Christ had destroyed death and had brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (1 Timothy 1:10). In a letter to the Philippians Paul wrote that he wants to experience the power of the resurrection and become like Christ in His death so somehow he could attain to the resurrection of the dead (Philippians 3:10). Bringing life and immortality to light through the gospel shows the gospel is about restoring life that has been destroyed through sin. Paul wanting to become like Christ in His death and attain to the resurrection of the dead is Paul wanting to experience the destruction of death as did Jesus and like Jesus experience resurrection to life. 

Resurrection and “the last day.”

       Christ spoke over and over again about raising up those at the last day who were committed to Him. Most Christians believe this to be an event still future to us. What is the last day that Christ is referring to?  Is this some kind of last day at the end of time or is this a last day at the time of the end? There is a big difference between speaking about the end of time and the time of the end. The Scriptures nowhere address the end of time. The Scriptures say a lot about the time of the end. What time and what end are being addressed?

       John 6:39-40: And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day.

       John 6:54: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

       John 12:48: There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.

       The same apostle John that recorded the words of Christ relative to the last day speaks of living during the time of the “last hour.” Is the last hour discussed in John’s letter the same as the last day that Christ was speaking about?  Remember that this is the same John who wrote the Revelation wherein he shows an imminent return of Christ as covered earlier in this series.

       1 John 2:18: Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many Antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.

       John taught that the last hour was upon them. Is John’s last hour synonymous with Christ’s last day?  In Luke 21:22, within the overall context of Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, Jesus says, “For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.”  Christ Jesus goes on to tell how dreadful things will be and what great distress there will be upon the land and wrath upon the people. In verse 28 Jesus says, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” What redemption is He talking about and how does it relate to the resurrection and the last time?

        In Galatians 3:13, Paul said, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law.” The curse of the law was death. Redemption is therefore related to passing from death unto life, which is what resurrection is all about. Paul speaks of their redemption as yet future and something they are hoping for when all things reach their fulfillment.

       Romans 8:22-25: We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Greek singular, “body”). For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

       Ephesians 1:3-10: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will­-to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment-to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

       Ephesians 4:30: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

        Paul instructs that redemption is something viewed as a thing to be put into effect when all things have reached their fulfillment. Christ said the time of fulfillment of all things was when the temple would be destroyed. Paul speaks about the redemption of our body. Paul is speaking about death being replaced with life. This redemption began at the return of Christ in the first century and has been available ever since.   

       Apostle Peter shows that the salvation to be revealed in the last time is tied to the revealing of Christ.  We have already shown that the revealing of Christ was considered imminent to the first-century Christians.  Therefore, the “last time” was something to occur in the first century and not thousands of years into the future and counting.  Let’s again look at what Peter said:

        1 Peter 1:3-7: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

       1 Peter 2:12: Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

       1 Peter 1:5: To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be (Greek mellousēs which should be rendered "about to be") revealed (See my discussion of the Greek mello in Part Eight of this series).

     Here we find Peter teaching that salvation is something yet future to them. It would occur at a period called “the last time.” The last time period is tied to the revealing of Christ.  As has been shown, the revealing of Christ is associated with His return. The return of Christ is seen as the time when “he (God) visits us.”  The “us” are the folks Peter is addressing in this letter. They are being told God is going to visit them by sending his Son to deliver them from the coming wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  This is a first century context.  Those being addressed are being told of things that are about to take place.  Peter speaks of having to suffer for a little while in the context of them anticipating the revealing of Christ in their lifetime, not in the lifetime of those living thousands of years into the future. Peter speaks in terms of the glory about to be revealed.

Resurrection and the Corinthians:

      We have discussed how eternal death is the penalty Adam and Eve paid for committing sin.  Since we all sin, we all pay that penalty.  Because Jesus took our sins upon Himself, He paid the same death penalty we pay. However, death couldn’t hold Jesus because Jesus never sinned. Consequently He was resurrected to life.  By the sinless Jesus taking our sin upon Himself and paying the same penalty we pay, He cancelled out the penalty we pay. He paid the penalty in our stead in that we don't remain dead. If it wasn't for the Christ event, we would remain dead. Through Jesus the penalty of sin death is forgiven. Consequently, death can’t any longer hold us. Upon physical death we are given a transformed spiritual body.

       Resurrection to life began with the resurrection of Jesus. What kind of resurrection did Jesus experience and what kind of resurrection do we experience?   How is life restored?  We will go to 1 Corinthians 15 to answer these questions. 

       The fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians speaks a great deal about resurrection. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Church deals with a variety of problems and issues that this Church was dealing with at the time.  A major problem was that various Corinthian brethren were aligning themselves with specific Christian leaders and, in so doing, causing division in the Church.  Paul also had to deal with immorality, lawsuits, questions about marriage, foods sacrificed to idols, spiritual gifts and the proper way to keep the Lord’s Supper.  In addition, Paul had to deal with some Corinthians believing there was no resurrection of the dead.

       As was true of many of the first century churches, the Corinthian church was made up of Gentiles and Jewish converts to Christianity.  These folks had come to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  To be Christian was to believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  The whole focus of the preaching of Paul, Peter and every other Apostle and minister, was the death and resurrection of Jesus and what that meant for humanity.  Both Jews and Gentiles became Christian because of their belief in the resurrection of Christ.  Being a Christian was defined by belief in the resurrection.  How then, could some of these Corinthian Christians question the reality of resurrection?

    1 Corinthians 15:12: But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

        In verses one through eleven of this chapter, Paul sets out to remind the Corinthians that the gospel he had preached to them was defined by the death and resurrection of Christ.  Paul relates that it is this gospel that the Corinthians believed and on which the Corinthian Christians have taken their stand.  It would, therefore, appear that the resurrection of Jesus is not what is being questioned.  In essence, Paul is saying that since Christ is preached as having been raised from the dead, which is what you believe and base your Christianity on, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?      

      It is apparent that these Corinthian’s were not questioning Christ’s resurrection. They understood the resurrection of Jesus was a special extraordinary event facilitated by God for a specific purpose.  They were, however, questioning how others could resurrect from the dead. Paul goes on to show the absurdity of questioning resurrection of the dead in view of their belief that Christ was resurrected from the dead.

       1 Corinthians 15:13-19: If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 

       It is instructive that Paul shows that without the resurrection of Christ, those Paul was addressing would be still in their sins and those who had fallen asleep in Christ (died in Christ) are lost. This shows that it is both the death and the resurrection of Christ that is necessary for our redemption from the consequences of sin. If Christ stayed dead then we stay dead. Those referred to as having died in Christ is a reference to their physical/biological death which should be obvious from the context.     

       Paul here shows the contradiction that exists if the dead are not raised.  The purpose of the resurrection of Jesus was to facilitate the passing from death unto life.  If there no passing from death unto life, which is what resurrection is all about, then Christ hasn’t been raised either.  Neither will those who have died in Christ be raised.  Paul is showing the folly of their thinking.  Paul is saying you can’t believe Christ was resurrected and not believe that resurrection is now unavailable.  He then instructs that Christ has indeed been raised from the dead  

          1 Corinthians 15:20: But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

         Colossians 1:18: And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

       Some look at these passages of Scripture and question how Jesus could be the firstfruits and firstborn from the dead seeing there have been various other resurrections prior to Christ. Jesus performed some during His ministry.  However, as we will see, Paul isn’t talking about returning to the physical body that dies. He was talking about a transformed spiritual body that was no longer capable of dying. Jesus became the first to be born with a transformed spiritual body that could never die again.

       Why did some question resurrection from the dead?  Since this was a Gentile church Paul was addressing, it may be that some may have retained beliefs from the pagan world which by and large didn't believe in bodily resurrection. Some may have been influenced by the Jewish religious party of the Sadducees who didn't believe in resurrection or an afterlife.

How are the dead raised?

       1 Corinthians 15:35-38: But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? [Present passive is used here to signify “being raised.”] With what kind of body will they come?’ How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.

       Paul shows that what is sown must first die before it can come to life.  Paul compares the sown body to a seed.  A seed dies in the process of generating new life.  In this respect the seed and the plant it produces are in continuity, insomuch as the seed provides the raw materials for the new plant and therefore becomes part of the new plant.  Paul’s seed analogy appears to parallel baptism. 

       In baptism we bury the natural man so that the new spiritual man can be raised in newness of life.  Therefore, we already have the new spiritual man abiding in us and upon physical death, we are granted a spiritual body. This is what Paul appears to mean when He says the body that is planted is not the body that will be.  Whether the components of the physical body that died are actually transformed in some way into the components that make up a spiritual body is unclear. Scripture tells us the body of Jesus was not allowed to decay and appears to have been transformed into a spiritual body.  When Paul speaks of the natural man or the natural body, he appears to be referring to the physical/biological body of sin and death. This body must be buried before the new spiritual body of life is able to rise up. 

      1 Corinthians 15:42-49: So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being, the last Adam, a life giving spirit.’ The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

      Paul makes it clear we start with a natural body patterned after that of Adam and we are resurrected as a spiritual body like that of Jesus.  First century Christians anticipated this change from a natural body to a spiritual body to occur in their lifetime as seen throughout this discussion. This was expected to occur when Christ returned in association with the destruction of the temple and the city on Jerusalem.  Christians who had died were expected to be raised to eternal life in the heavenly realm. 

       What about living Christians?  What happened to them?  There are two views on this issue. One view is that they were given eternal life to be resident within them and when they physically died they received their transformed body and were ushered into the heavenly realm. This view is embraced by those who take the collective/corporate body view of resurrection discussed earlier. The other view is that the living Christians were given a transformed body (physical to spiritual) and taken into the heavenly realm at the time of Christ' return.  This is what is generally referred to as a rapture.

Resurrection and the Thessalonians:

       Paul, Silas and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 1:1) address the Thessalonian Christians in much the same way as Paul addressed the Corinthians regarding the return of Christ and the resurrection.  Let’s take a look at what this letter says regarding resurrection and the return of Christ.

       1 Thessalonians 4:13-17: Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

      Throughout this series of essays we have cited dozens of Scriptural passages that show the return of Christ was going to occur in the lifetime of the first-century Church.  Jesus taught that this event would occur before the generation He was addressing would pass.  The apostles all taught that the return of Jesus was about to occur.  As covered previously, the Thessalonian Christians were expecting relief from persecutions when Christ returned.  Now they are being told that some of them would be alive at Christ’s coming.  The context is clearly first century. 

       Christians living thousands of years in the future are not being addressed here.  Paul and his associates are speaking about an event that would occur while some of those being addressed would still be alive. The reference to meeting in the clouds is symbolic language.  As shown earlier, such language was commonly used by Scriptural writers to describe the power and glory of God as He intervenes in the affairs of men. 

       A reading of the full text of this letter to the Thessalonian Christians should make it apparent the writers (Paul, Silas and Timothy) were addressing what they believed to be a first-century event in speaking of Christ’s return and being raised to meet Him.  Let’s look at what is said just a little farther along in this same letter.

       1 Thessalonians 5:1-4: Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.

       The Thessalonian Christians had just been told that when Christ comes, the dead would rise and those of them still alive would also be caught up to be with Christ.  Now they are being told that when the day of the Lord will come, it will come like a thief in the night.  Has the subject changed?  Has there been a sudden shift from discussing a return of Christ involving the Thessalonian Christians rising to meet Him to discussing some other event that would be far off in the future after all those being addressed would be dead?  In terms of what is written, this simply cannot be the case.

        The writers of this letter, in a very unambiguous and straightforward manner, write the following: “But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:4).  How could this day not surprise the Thessalonian Christians like a thief if they are all dead in their graves and this event was to first take place thousands of years into the future?  These Thessalonian Christians are obviously being told that because they live in the light of the truth, they will see the day of Christ approaching while others will not.  They would escape the coming destruction while others would not.

       This destruction is the same destruction prophesied by Christ and all the Apostles. This is the wrath to come that John the Baptist spoke about. Much of the message to the Thessalonians is reflective of what Jesus taught in the Olivet Discourse about events that would take place in conjunction with the destruction of the temple.  The destruction and wrath spoken of was the Roman-Jewish War of A.D. 66 to 73 that resulted in the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem and brought to an end the means to administer the Old Covenant system.  Now let’s read more of this letter.

       1 Thessalonians 5:23: May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

       The context remains the coming of Christ.  These Thessalonians are seen as alive at the coming of Christ.  The writers speak of their "whole spirit, soul and body being kept blameless (preserved blameless in the KJV) at the return of Christ.  You don’t find any preserved bodies of Thessalonian Christians walking around in the 21st century still waiting for Christ to appear. It should be obvious that what is anticipated here is a first-century event.

       In this letter to the Thessalonian Christians, we see them experiencing persecutions from those opposed to the gospel message. The writers then speak of these persecutors experiencing the coming wrath and destruction while those responding to the gospel would be granted salvation.  In chapter one, verse ten, the writers speak of the Thessalonians waiting for Christ to appear in order to be rescued from the coming wrath. In chapter five, verse nine, the Thessalonian Christians are seen as not being appointed to experience the coming wrath but instead salvation through Christ.

       The entire context of this letter relates to an event about to occur. The return of Christ and the resurrection had to take place in some fashion in the first century.  The wrath and destruction that the Thessalonians were to escape was not a wrath and destruction to occur thousands of years into the future. Such a conclusion is ludicrous.

       In the letters to both the Thessalonian and the Corinthian Christians, resurrection is being addressed within the context of an imminent return of Christ. This return brought wrath and destruction upon those in opposition to the gospel. This return brought salvation to those that received the gospel.  This return also provided salvation to the dead in Christ, those who had accepted the gospel message but who died before Christ’s return.

        The Scriptures indicate that many who had died in past generations would also rise up at the time of Christ’s return.  Some would rise to life while others would rise to condemnation (judgement).  The dynamics associated with this process are unclear in Scripture. The fate of the "unsaved dead," both past and future, is a subject I address in a separate series of essays on this website entitled, What Happens After Death and in the three part series entitled, "The case for Universal Salvation."    

 PART FIFTEEN