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by Dr. John Thomas
Because, therefore, of the nature of this Kingdom, "flesh and blood cannot inherit it"; and hence the necessity of a man being "born of the spirit," or "he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God".
He must be "changed into spirit," put on incorruptibility and immortality of body, or he will be physically incapable of retaining the honour, glory, and power of the Kingdom for ever, or even for a thousand years.
But, before the apostle concludes his interesting exposition of "the kind of body for which the dead come," he makes known a secret which was previously concealed from the disciples at Corinth.
It would probably have occurred to them, that if flesh and blood could not inherit the Kingdom of God, then those who were living at the epoch of its establishment, being men in the flesh, could have no part in it.
But to remove this difficulty, the apostle wrote, saying, "Behold, I tell you a mystery.
We shall not all sleep ( koimhyhsomeya , met. to die, be dead), but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for it (the seventh trumpet) shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible ( afyartoi , equal to the angels), and we shall be changed ( ej" pneuma , into spirit).
For this corruptible (body) must put on incorruptibility ( ajfqorsivan ), and this mortal (body) must put on immortality ( ayanasian Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory".
But, that the saints might not misapprehend the matter, especially those of them who may be contemporary with the seventh trumpet-period, he gave further particulars of the secret in another letter.
The disciples at Thessalonica were deeply sorrowing for the loss of some of their body who had fallen asleep in death; probably victims to persecution.
The apostle wrote to comfort them, and exhorted them "not to sorrow as the others (oiJ loipoiv, ie., the unbelievers), who have no hope.
For if we (the disciples) believe that Jesus died and rose again"; and be not like those, who, by saying, "There is no resurrection of the dead," in effect deny it; "even so," as he rose, "them also who sleep in Jesus will God bring forth ( a[xei , lead out, or produce), with him".
He then proceeds to show the "order" in which the saints are changed into spirit, or immortalized, by the Son of Man.
"For" says he, "this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we, the living, who remain at the Lord's coming, shall not anticipate them who are asleep.
For the Lord himself shall come down from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: after that we, the living, who remain, shall be snatched away together with them in clouds to a meeting of the Lord in the air: and thus we shall be with the Lord at all times.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words".
It will be seen from this, that survivors of the dead were not consoled in the first age of Christianity for the loss of their friends as they are now by those who "improve the death" of the influential among them.
In "funeral sermons," the "immortal souls" of the deceased are transported "on angels' wings to heaven," and the living are consoled with the assurance that they are singing the praises of God around the throne; feasting with Abraham, and the prophets, with the saints and martyrs, and with Jesus and his apostles in the Kingdom of God; and they are themselves persuaded, that the souls of their relations, now become angels, are watching over them, and praying for them; and that when they die their own souls will be re-united with them in the realms of bliss.
Need I say to the man enlightened in the word, that there is no such comfort, or consolation, as this in the law and the testimony of God?
Such traditions are purely mythological; and come of the Nicolaitan dogma of saved "ghosts, and goblins damn'd" which has cancerously extirpated "the truth as it is in Jesus".
No, the apostles did not point men to the day of their death, and its immediate consequents, for comfort; nor did they administer the consolations of the gospel to any who had not obeyed it.
They offered comfort only to the disciples; for they only are the heirs with Jesus of the Kingdom of God.
They taught these to look to the coming of Christ, and to the resurrection, as the time of a re-union with their brethren in the faith.
At death, they should "rest from their labours, and their works should follow them"; and "to them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation".