That Blessed Hope





"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the glory

of our great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ," Tit. ii:13.





"That blessed hope" of which the Apostle writes is an exclusively New

Testament revelation. The appearing of the glory of our great God and

our Savior Jesus Christ is fully revealed in the Old Testament

prophetic Word. The Prophets had visions of the day of the Lord, a day

in which the Lord will be manifested in power and glory; a day which

will bring glory and peace when the Lord is enthroned as King of kings

and Lord of lords. The Spirit of God has shown through the prophets

what the appearing, the visible manifestation of the Lord will mean,

for the people Israel, for the nations and for groaning creation. But

nowhere do we find "that blessed hope" made known by the prophets. The

Jewish Saints knew nothing of it as it is revealed to the church of

God. True they had now and then a glimpse of the future. One of the

greatest sufferers was Job. His darkest night was illuminated by the

assurance of hope when he uttered his great testimony: "I know that my

Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand in the latter day upon the

earth. And if after my skin this body shall be destroyed, yet in my

flesh shall I see God. Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes

shall behold, and not another" (Job xix:25-27). But this is not "that

blessed hope" the Lord has given to us His people.



Old Testament Saints knew of the resurrection of the dead. They knew

nothing of a resurrection from among the dead. Yet Enoch and Elijah

were taken to glory without dying. No prophet knew the typical meaning

of their experience as we know it through "that blessed hope."





For the First Time



"That blessed hope" is for the first time mentioned by our Lord. But

where in His earthly life did He give it to His disciples? It is not

found in the records of the three first Gospels, generally called the

synoptics. In these records He spoke often of His Return. He promised

a Second Coming of Himself in the clouds of heaven with power and great

glory. He revealed what should take place before His return. In His

prophetic Olivet discourse (Matt. xxiv-xxv) He gave the signs of His

Coming, the preceding great tribulation, the physical signs

accompanying His visible manifestation, the regathering of His elect

people Israel by the angels. He revealed how some would then be taken

in judgment and others left on the earth to enter the Kingdom (Matt.

xxiv:40-41). He also spoke in parables of how the conditions in

Christendom would be dealt with by Him. And finally He gave a prophecy

concerning the judgment of the living nations in the day of His

appearing. But nowhere in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke did He

speak of "that blessed hope."



It was in the upper room discourse that He spoke of it the first time.

His eleven disciples were gathered about Him. Judas had gone out into

the night to betray Him. For him of whom the Lord said it would have

been better had he never been born, there was no blessed hope. The

Lord had announced His imminent departure from them. He would leave

them. When Peter said "I will lay down my life for thy sake" (John

xiii:30), the omniscient One told him, "the cock shall not crow till

thou hast denied me thrice." How sorrowful this little company must

have been! Despair was probably on all their faces. Their hearts were

greatly troubled.



Then His beloved voice broke the silence and uttered the never to be

forgotten words, "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God,

believe also in Me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were

not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you; and if

I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you

unto Myself that where I am ye may be also" (John xiv:1-3). In these

words "that blessed hope" is mentioned for the first time in the Bible.





What It Is



Only those who belonged to Him heard this promise. It is therefore a

promise not given to Israel, or to the world, but only for those who

know Him as their Savior and Lord, who have believed on Him and are His

own. The promise is twofold. He would come again and receive them

unto Himself; and that He would take them to the place where He is.

And this is "that blessed hope." His coming for His own to be with Him

in the Father's house to occupy the mansions He has prepared by His

atoning work.



The contrast of this promise of His Coming for His disciples with the

promises of His visible return as given in the synoptics is striking.

He does not say a word about any signs. He does not mention the great

tribulation. Nor has He anything to say about judgment. He only gives

the assurance that He, in person, will come again and then receive them

unto Himself. They were not to look for certain signs and events as

predicted in Daniel's prophecy, or wait for the great tribulation and

the manifestation of the man of sin. His promise told them to wait for

Himself.





His Prayer



A little while later after He had given this promise of His Coming for

them they heard Him pray. This prayer is found in the seventeenth

chapter of John. What a prayer it is! As they listened to His voice

addressing the Father they had new glimpses of His great love wherewith

He loved them. He prayed for their sanctification, for their

preservation and finally for their glorification. He made a demand of

the Father which confirmed the promise He had previously given to them.

He prayed, "Father, I will that they, whom Thou hast given Me be with

Me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given Me,

for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world" (John xvii:24).

In these words He asks the Father to do what He had promised His

disciples. His own are to be with Him where He is, to behold His glory.





An Unfulfilled Promise and an Unanswered Prayer



The promise of "that blessed hope" given so long ago is still

unfulfilled; the prayer He prayed is not yet answered. Some say that

when our Lord said "I will come again and receive you unto myself" He

meant the death of the believer. This is positively wrong. When the

believer dies the Lord does not come to the individual believer, but

the believer goes to be with the Lord. "Absent from the body present

with the Lord." When the believer dies his body is put into the

ground, while the disembodied part goes straight into His presence.

But the body is also redeemed and must be fashioned like unto His

glorious body. The disciples died and generations upon generations of

believers passed away and the promise is still unfulfilled and His

prayer not yet answered.





The Full Revelation



The disciples, though they knew the promise of "that blessed hope" had

no knowledge whatever how the Lord would come again and receive them

unto Himself. He did not reveal the manner of His Coming when He spoke

to them. The Lord singled out the Apostle Paul to give to him the

special revelation as to the manner of His Coming for His Saints and

how "that blessed hope" would some day be fulfilled. The Apostle Paul

is the instrument through whom the Lord was pleased to give the highest

revelation in the Word of God, so that he could say that it was given

to him "to fulfil (complete) the Word of God." To him the full glory

of the church, the body of Christ, was made known, and through this

chosen vessel, who called himself less than the least of all the

Saints, the full revelation of "that blessed hope" is given.



The first Epistle he wrote was the Epistle to the Thessalonians. The

great revelation of the blessed hope is found in the first Epistle.

"But we do not wish you to be ignorant concerning them that are fallen

asleep, to the end that ye sorrow not, even as others who have no hope.

For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also God will

bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. For this we

say to you in the Word of the Lord, that we, the living, who remain to

the coming of the Lord, are in no way to anticipate those who have

fallen asleep: for the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with an

assembling shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of

God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we, the living who

remain, shall be caught up together with them in clouds, to meet the

Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore

comfort one another with these words" (1 Thess. iv:13-18,--corrected

translation). These words, so unique and precious, give the full

revelation about "the blessed hope." Some of the Thessalonian

believers had died and those who were left behind feared that their

departed ones had lost their share in the coming glorious meeting with

the Lord. On their account they sorrowed like those who have no hope.

And so the Lord gave to the Apostle this special revelation to quiet

their fears and to enlighten them as to the details of the coming of

the Lord for all His Saints, those who had fallen asleep, and those who

live when He fulfills His promise. The little church of Thessalonica

with these sorrowing Saints was made the recipient of this great and

comforting message which is for the whole body of Christ as well.



Let us examine it. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again,

so also God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through

Jesus." Here is first the blessed fact that "Jesus died." Of the

Saints it is said that they fell asleep; but never is it said that

Jesus slept, when He gave His life on the cross. He tasted death, the

death in all its unfathomable meaning as the judgment upon sin. For

the saints the physical death is but sleep.[1] And He who died rose

again; as certainly as He died and rose again, so surely shall all

believers rise. God will bring all those who have fallen asleep

through Jesus with Him, that is with the Lord when He comes in the day

of His glorious manifestation. It does not mean the receiving of them

by the Lord, nor does it mean that He brings their disembodied spirits

with Him to be united to their bodies from the graves, but it means

that those who have fallen asleep will God bring with His Son when He

comes with all His saints; they will all be in that glorified company.

When the Lord comes back from glory all the departed saints will be

with Him. This is what the Thessalonians needed to know first of all.

Before we follow this blessed revelation in its unfolding we call

attention to the phrase "fallen asleep through (not in) Jesus;" it may

also be rendered by "those who were put to sleep by Jesus." His saints

in life and death are in His hands. When saints put their bodies

aside, it is because their Lord has willed it so. "Precious in the

sight of the Lord is the death of His saints" (Ps. cxvi:15). When our

loved ones leave us, may we think of their departure as being "put to

sleep by Jesus."



But blessed as this answer to their question is, it produced another

difficulty. Hearing that the saints who had fallen asleep would come

with the Lord on the day of His glorious manifestation, they would ask,

"How is it possible that they can come with Him?" Are they coming as

disembodied spirits? What about their bodies in the graves? How shall

they come with Him? To answer these questions the special revelation

"by the Word of the Lord" is given, by which they learned, and we also,

how they would all be with Him so as to come with Him at His appearing.

"For this we say to you by the Word of the Lord, that we, the living,

who remain unto the coming of the Lord, are in no wise to anticipate

those who have fallen asleep." He tells them that when the Lord comes

for His saints, those who have fallen asleep will not have an inferior

place, and that, we, the living, who remain to the coming of the Lord,

will not precede those who have fallen asleep. When Paul wrote these

words and said "We, the living, who remain," he certainly considered

himself as included in that class. The two companies who will meet the

Lord when He comes, those who have fallen asleep and those who are

living, are mentioned here for the first time. How the living saints

will not precede those who have departed and the order in which the

coming of the Lord for His saints will be executed is next made known

in this wonderful revelation.



"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with an assembling

shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God; and

the dead in Christ shall rise first, then, we, the living, who remain,

shall be caught up together with them in clouds, to meet the Lord in

the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one

another with these words." This is the full revelation of the blessed

hope in its manner of fulfilment. Nothing like it is found anywhere in

the Old Testament Scriptures. In writing later to the Corinthians Paul

mentioned it again: "Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all

sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of

an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead

shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1 Cor.

xv:51-52).



The Lord Himself will descend from heaven. He is now at the right

hand of God in glory, crowned with honor and glory. There He exercises

His Priesthood and advocacy in behalf of His people, by which He keeps,

sustains and restores them. When the last member has been added to the

church, which is His body, and that body is to be with Him, who is the

head, He will leave the place at the right hand and descend from

heaven. He will not descend to the earth, for, as we read later, the

meeting-place for Him and His saints is the air and not the earth.

When He comes with His saints in His visible manifestation, He will

descend to the earth. When He comes for His Saints He comes with a

shout. It denotes His supreme authority. The Greek word is "Kelusma,"

which means literally "a shout of command," used in classical Greek for

the hero's shout to his followers in battle, the commanding voice to

gather together. He ascended with a shout (Ps. lxvii:5), and with the

victor's shout He returns. The shout may be the single word "Come!"

"Come and see" He spoke to the disciples who followed Him and inquired

for His dwelling place. Before Lazarus' tomb He spoke with a loud

voice, "Come forth." John, in the isle of Patmos, after the throne

messages to the churches had been given, saw a door opened in heaven

and the voice said "Come up hither" (Rev. iv:1). "Come" is the royal

word of grace, and grace will do its supreme work when He comes for His

own. But there will also be the voice of the archangel (Michael) and

the trump of God. The archangel is the leader of the angelic hosts.

As He was seen of angels (1 Tim. iii:16) when He ascended into the

highest heaven, so will the archangel be connected with His descent out

of heaven. All heaven will be in commotion when the heirs of glory,

sinners saved by grace, are about to be brought with glorified bodies

into the Father's house. Some teach that the voice of the archangel

may be employed to summon the heavenly hosts and marshal the

innumerable company of the redeemed, for "They shall gather His elect

together from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other"

(Matthew xxiv:30-31). But this is incorrect. The elect in Matthew

xxiv are not the church, but Israel. Dispersed Israel will be

regathered and angels will be used in this work. Furthermore the

angels will do this gathering after the great tribulation and after the

visible manifestation of the Lord with His saints. The coming of the

Lord for His saints takes place before the great tribulation.



The trump of God is also mentioned. This trumpet has nothing to do

with the judgment trumpets of Revelation, nor with the Jewish feast of

trumpets. Some teach that the trumpet is the last trumpet of

Revelation. But note the trumpet here is the trumpet of God; in

Revelation the last trumpet is blown by an angel. It is a symbolical

term and like the shout stands for the gathering together. In Numbers

x:4 we read, "And if they blow with one trumpet, then the princes, the

heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves unto thee."

The shout and the trump of God will gather the fellow-heirs of Christ.

"The dead in Christ shall rise first." This is the resurrection from

among all the dead of those who believed on Christ, the righteous,

dead. All saints of all ages, Old and New Testament saints, are

included. This statement of the resurrection of the dead in Christ

first disposes completely of the unscriptural view of a general

resurrection. As we know from Rev. xx:5 the rest of the dead (the

wicked dead) will be raised up later. He comes in person to open the

graves of all who belong to Him and manifests His authority over death

which He has conquered. The dead in Christ will hear the shout first

and experience His quickening power; they shall be raised

incorruptible. What power will then be manifested! "Then we, the

living, who remain, shall be caught up together with them in clouds to

meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord." All

believers who live on earth when the Lord comes will hear that

commanding, gathering shout. It does not include those who only

profess to be Christians and are nominal church-members, nor are any

excluded who really are the Lord's. The question, "Who will be caught

up into glory?" is answered elsewhere in these studies. But see 1 Cor.

xv:23 for an answer. The change will be "in a moment, in the twinkling

of an eye" (1 Cor. xv:52). Then this mortal will put on immortality.

It will be that "clothed upon" of which the apostle wrote to the

Corinthians: "For in this tabernacle we groan, being burdened; not for

that we would be unclothed (death) but clothed upon, that mortality

might be swallowed up of life" (2 Cor. v:4). Then our body of

humiliation will be fashioned like unto His own glorious body. It is

the blessed, glorious hope, not death and the grave, but the coming of

the Lord, when we shall be changed. And it is our imminent hope;

believers must wait daily for it and some blessed day the shout will

surely come.



When He descends from heaven with the shout and the dead in Christ are

raised and we are changed, then "we shall be caught up together with

them in clouds to meet the Lord in the air." It will be the blessed

time of reunion with the loved ones who have gone before. What joy and

comfort it must have brought to the sorrowing Thessalonians when they

read these blessed words for the first time! And they are still the

words of comfort and hope to all His people, when they stand at the

open graves of loved ones who fell asleep as believers. Often the

question is asked, "Shall we not alone meet our loved ones but also

recognize them?" Here is the answer: "Together with them" implies both

reunion and recognition. These words would indeed mean nothing did

they not mean recognition. We shall surely see the faces of our loved

ones again and all the saints of God on that blessed day when this

great event takes place. The clouds will be heaven's chariots to take

the heirs of God and the joint-heirs of the Lord Jesus Christ into His

own presence. As He ascended so His redeemed ones will be taken up.

Caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; all laws of

gravitation are set aside, for it is the power of God, the same power

which raised up the Lord Jesus from the dead and seated Him in glory,

which will be displayed in behalf of His saints (Eph. i:19-23). Surely

this is a divine and a wonderful revelation. "How foolish it must

sound to our learned scientists. But, beloved, I would want nothing

but that one sentence, 'Caught up in clouds to meet the Lord in the

air,' to prove the divinity of Christianity. Its very boldness is

assurance of its truth. No speculation, no argument, no reasoning; but

a bare authoritative statement startling in its boldness. Not a

syllable of Scripture on which to build, and yet when spoken, in

perfect harmony with all Scripture. How absolutely impossible for any

man to have conceived that the Lord's saints should be caught up to

meet Him in the air. Were it not true its very boldness and apparent

foolishness would be its refutation. And what would be the character

of mind that could invent such a thought? What depths of wickedness!

What cruelty! What callousness! The spring from which such a

statement, if false, could rise must be corrupt indeed. But how

different in fact! What severe righteousness! What depths of

holiness! What elevated morality! What warmth of tender affection!

What clear reasoning! Every word that he has written testifies that he

has not attempted to deceive. Paul was no deceiver, and it is equally

impossible for him to have been deceived."[2]



And the blessedness "to meet the Lord in the air"! We shall see Him

then as He is and gaze for the first time upon the face of the Beloved,

that face of glory, which was once marred and smitten on account of our

sins. And seeing Him as He is we shall be like Him. How long will be

the meeting in the air? It has been said that the stay in that meeting

place will be but momentary and that the Lord will at once resume His

descent to the earth. We know from other Scriptures that this cannot

be. Between the coming of the Lord for His saints and with His saints

there is an interval of at least seven years before the visible coming

of the Lord and His saints with Him. The judgment of the saints, by

which their works and labors become manifest must take place. There is

also to be the presentation of the church in glory (Ephes. v:27; Jude

verse 24). Furthermore the marriage of the Lamb takes place not in the

meeting place in the air, but in heaven (Rev. xix:1-10). He will take

His saints into the Father's house that they may behold His glory (John

xvii:22). But what will it mean, "So shall we be forever with the

Lord!"





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