Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise: The Emptying of Sheol & the Resting Place of the Saints

Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian congregation. More specifically today’s passage is found in the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament book. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed” (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).

 

            “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep are perished” (1 Corinthians 15:12-18).

 

            “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by one man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:19-22).

 

            “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:23-28).

 

            “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily, if after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die. Be not deceived: evil communication corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God; I speak this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:29-34).

 

            “But some many will say, how are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; 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. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which was spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:35-49).

 

            “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but 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. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).

 

            When you come to the fifteenth chapter of the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul you will encounter one of the most remarkable and astounding passages in the entire epistle. Upon reading the words which are found in this particular chapter you will find the apostle Paul not only speaking of resurrection but also speaking of transformation. As you come to this passage you will find the apostle Paul beginning by speaking of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and the events which took place immediately after He was raised from death to life. You cannot read the words found in this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth regarding the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and how His resurrection is a powerful symbol and sign of our own resurrection which we can and will experience. In all reality it is absolutely necessary to read the words which are found in this particular chapter for what we find here is an incredibly powerful picture of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as the foundation for our own resurrection which we ourselves can and will experience in that last day when the trumpet shall sound. In all reality I am convinced that if you want to truly understand the words and language that is found in this passage of Scripture you must needs recognize that the opening portion of this passage and the final portion of this passage are intrinsically linked together for you cannot have the resurrection of the dead without and apart from the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

 

            The more I sit here and consider the words which are found in this particular passage written and recorded in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthians the more I am brought face to face with the words the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Rome. As surely and as much as we ought to recognize and understand the words and language written and contained in this passage concerning the first Adam and the last Adam so also must we recognize the same language which is found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome. It is absolutely impossible to read the words found in this passage of Scripture without and apart from recognizing their intrinsic link and connection to the words which are found in the epistle written by Paul unto the Roman saints. The words and language presented there in that passage of Scripture bring us face to face with the first man Adam who was formed of the dust of the ground and was created in the image and after the likeness of the living God. As a result of the sin and transgression of this first man in the garden after the living God had breathed into his nostrils and caused him to become a living soul sin and death would be transmitted and passed down through the generations. From the time of Adam until the time of Moses sin and death would be very much present in the earth and would reign upon the earth within the hearts and lives of those who move upon the face of the earth. When the Law of the LORD was given unto Moses atop Horeb in the wilderness of Sinai sin and death would be enhanced and magnified in the earth as there would now be the ultimate standard for obedience, faithfulness and righteousness within the earth.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the fifth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome and I am brought face to face with the incredible and powerful picture of the first Adam which introduced and transmitted sin and death upon the human race and the second Adam which was a life-giving spirit and offered righteousness and life according to the free gift of God. Within the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome we discover how all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and how the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is salvation and eternal life. That which we find in the fifth chapter of this New Testament epistle brings us face to face with the awesome and powerful truth of how sin and death reigned in the earth from the time of Adam until the time of Christ and how as a direct result of the sin and transgression of Adam in the garden man was bound to struggle and contend with the carnal nature which was present within him. The words and language found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome are an incredibly powerful picture of how the first Adam was the ultimate cause of sin and death reigning upon the earth from that time until now but how the second Adam came to undo and reverse that which Adam had committed and wrought in the garden. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome:

 

            “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death byh sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:12-21).

 

            Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this particular passage of Scripture for within it we are brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the first Adam as directly compared and contrasted to the second Adam. Within this passage of Scripture we read how it was by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin so that death passed upon all men. As a direct result of this all have sinned—and not only have all sinned but all have come short of the glory of God. The apostle Paul goes on to write how until the law sin was in the world but sin was not imputed when there is no law. Death did indeed reign from Adam to Moses—even over them that had not sinned after the similitude or likeness of Adam’s transgression who was the figure of Him that was to come. What I so love about the words the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture is that he would go on to write how if through the offence of one many be dead much more the grace of God and the gift by grace which is by one man Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul goes on to write ho judgment was by one unto condemnation but the free gift is of many offences unto justification which came through one man. If by one man’s offence death reigned by one then much more they which receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness which shall reign in life by one who is Jesus Christ. All of this is heightened and increased in measure when the apostle Paul goes on to write how as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation yet by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners but by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. The law would enter that the offence might abound but where sin abounded grace did much more abound that as sin reigned unto death even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

            There is a reason why I sought to bring before and unto you the words which are found in the fifth chapter of the epistle written by Paul unto the saints which were at Rome for what we find in this epistle paints a clear and powerful picture of the direct contrast between the first Adam and the second Adam. It was the first Adam who introduced sin and death in the earth while it was the second Adam who introduced life, obedience, righteousness, justification and life unto all who would believe. It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and pay attention to this for it serves as an incredible Segway and transition into the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. Within the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints we not only find the apostle Paul writing and speaking of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus but we also find the apostle Paul speaking once more of the contrast which existed between Adam and Christ. As you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will be brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the first Adam and how this first Adam wrought and produced sin and death within the earth. In the fifteenth chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul clearly sets forth the tremendous truth surrounding the first Adam and how it was through the first Adam sin and death were not only introduced into the earth but were also transmitted in each and every living being which moved upon the earth. From Adam would come the sin nature which was at war and was enmity against God. Ever since Adam sinned and transgressed in the garden sin and death have reigned upon the earth as men and women have struggled, wrestled and contended with the sin nature which they cannot overcome and defeat in their own strength.

 

            In the fifteenth chapter of this first epistle written by the apostle Paul we encounter the wonderful truth that despite the fact that death came by one man so also by one man would come the resurrection from the dead. Although it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment we recognize and understand that for those who believe and for those who trust in the free gift of salvation and eternal life offered by the living God there is the hope of resurrection from the dead. The words and language we find in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints serve as an incredibly powerful picture of death reigning among men from the time of Adam because of Adam’s transgression. With this being said, however, we find the apostle Paul writing in this passage of Scripture how the Lord Jesus upon rising from the dead on the third day was indeed the firstfruits of many more resurrections which would take place as a direct result of His own. In fact this particular truth is captured beautifully and wonderfully in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. If you read the narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find that he is the only gospel author to capture something specific which took place upon the death of Christ—and not only that which took place at the death of Christ but also that which took place at the resurrection of the Lord Jesus on the third day. There is not a doubt in my mind that the words and language we find in this New Testament gospel serves as a powerful witness and testimony for what we find in the fifteenth chapter of this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand concerning this epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints it’s that when Jesus was raised from death to life He wasn’t merely raised to life for His own sake and benefit but was raised from death to life for the sake and benefit of all those who would come after—all those who believed and were given the power to become the sons of God.

 

            I mentioned the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and I am absolutely convinced there is a great need for us to pay close attention to those words. It is with and through these words we not only see Christ’s death accomplishing something in the midst of the earth but we also see the resurrection of the Lord Jesus accomplishing and fulfilling something so much greater and more powerful than that of His death. Within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find that upon the death of the Lord Jesus the graves of the righteous dead who were asleep were opened as those whose bodies lie within those graves were awaiting a resurrection from the dead. The apostle Matthew goes on to describe how although the graves of many of the righteous dead were opened and unlocked as a result of the death of the Lord Jesus the righteous dead which were present within those graves would not come forth until His resurrection. It would be through and as a direct result of the death of the Lord Jesus that the graves of many of the righteous dead were opened, however, it would be upon the resurrection of the Lord Jesus that those whose graves were opened would rise from the dead and enter into Jerusalem. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for this particular passage perfectly and powerfully describes the Lord Jesus as the firstfruits of the resurrection from the dead and that because He rose from the dead so also can we ourselves rise from the dead. If there is one thing this passage aptly demonstrates and reveals unto us it’s that through the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead there is hope for us to be raised from death to life and to experience a similar resurrection as that which the Lord Jesus experienced. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:

 

            “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him: Among which was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and JOses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children” (Matthew 27:51-56).

 

            I am absolutely and completely convinced there is a great need to recognize the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words which are presented here before us bring us face to face with the graves of many of the saints being opened upon the death of the Lord Jesus. Within this passage we find that the graves of many of the saints and of the righteous were unlocked and opened and would remain open until the time of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The bodies of those saints would remain in those graves during those three days awaiting their resurrection which would come as a direct result of the Lord Jesus’ own resurrection. The apostle Matthew writes how upon the death of the Lord Jesus the graves were opened and how many bodies of the saints which slept arose and came out of those graves after his resurrection. What makes this truly remarkable and astonishing is when you think about and consider the fact that it was the death of the Lord Jesus which opened and unlocked the graves of the righteous and of the saints and yet it was His resurrection which caused them to rise. Although the death of the Lord Jesus would indeed open and unlock the graves of the righteous and of the saints on this particular day those bodies would remain in the grave until after His resurrection when they would rise from the grave and enter into the holy city appearing unto many. Pause for a moment and consider the great company and fellowship of the resurrection which were present upon the earth at that time for not only did we have Jairus’ daughter whom Jesus raised up, not only did we have the widow’s only son whom Jesus raised up, not only did we have Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead, and not only do we have Jesus whom the Spirit raised from the dead but we also have many of the saints and the righteous who were also raised from the dead and appeared unto many within the holy city.

 

            I have to admit I find it absolutely and utterly fascinating when reading the words which are found in the twenty-seventh chapter of the gospel narrative written by Matthew for within it we see a powerful company of resurrected ones who were present upon the earth. After Jesus’ resurrection it wasn’t only Jesus Himself who had been raised from death to life and appeared unto many but it was also Lazarus who was raised from death to life whom many came for themselves to witness and look upon he whom Jesus raised from the dead. What’s more is that in addition to Jesus and Lazarus there were many saints whose graves were opened at the death of Jesus and whose bodies were raised from the grave after His resurrection who entered into the holy city of Jerusalem and appeared unto many. After Jesus’ resurrection from the grave we see both Jesus and Lazarus as a fellowship of resurrected ones, however, we must needs recognize that there were a fairly decent number of saints who had also been raised from the dead. There is indeed a part of me that can’t help but wonder if those whose bodies were raised from death to life and entered into Jerusalem had any interaction with Lazarus and/or even Jesus Himself. We know that after Jesus was raised from death to life He instructed Mary to speak unto His disciples and unto Peter that they journey unto Galilee where He would go ahead of them and meet them. The gospels make it perfectly clear that after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus He came unto Galilee where He would appear unto many over a forty day period of time. It was this particular reality which the beloved physician Luke records in the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts as well as which each of the gospel narratives reveals in the final chapters of their own books. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are recorded in the Scriptures concerning the Lord Jesus being raised from the dead—and not only His being raised from the dead but also His appearing and revealing Himself unto many:

 

            “The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to. Know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into. Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

 

            “…And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? And they arose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread. And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:30-44).

 

            “…And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth which was crucified: He is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchure; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid. Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither belived they them. Afteward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen” (Mark 16:6-14).

 

            “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:19-23).

 

            “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:24-30).

 

            I am absolutely convinced these passages are absolutely necessary for within them we find various instances and occurrences of the Lord Jesus appearing unto His disciples after He was raised from death to life. The beloved physician Luke described how after the Lord Jesus was raised from death to life He showed Himself alive unto the apostles by many infallible proofs. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand is the scars and prints from the nails in both His feet and His hands as well as the print from where the spear was thrust into his side. There is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus chose to retain the scars from His suffering and from His death as an infallible and undeniable proof that it was indeed He who had appeared unto them. How absolutely incredible it is to think about the scars from the suffering and death of Jesus would actually be a proof that He had in fact risen from the grave—and not only that He had risen from the grave but that He had in turn died. The scars were indeed the proof that He had in fact been nailed to the cross and had been crucified by the Romans. What a truly awesome and powerful truth it is to think about and consider the fact that when Jesus rose from the grave He chose to retain and hold on to the scars—perhaps not only to show those scars in heaven before the Father, before the angels, before the cherubim and seraphim and the like, but also to show unto His disciples and followers that He had indeed been crucified and had been raise from death to life. There is something absolutely wonderful and beautiful when you think about the fact that the Lord Jesus would indeed hold on to the scars from His suffering and death as a proof and demonstration that He had in fact suffered and died when appearing unto many after He had been raised from death to life. In all reality it almost seems as though the scars of His suffering were perhaps the single greatest proof that He had been raised from death to life—and not only that He had been raised from death to life but also that He had in fact died and been crucified.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the awesome truth surrounding the Lord Jesus and His resurrection and how after He was raised from death to life He didn’t merely ascend straightaway into heaven. It would have been one thing for the Spirit to raise up Jesus from death to life and to bring Him forth from the grave and Him to immediately ascend unto the right hand of the Father. The truth of the matter, however, is that after Jesus was raised from death to life He went ahead of His disciples from Jerusalem unto Galilee where He would appear unto many showing many infallible proofs. It would be there beginning in Jerusalem Jesus would begin showing Himself alive—first unto Mary in the garden and then slowly unto the apostles including Simon called Peter. Jesus would show Himself alive unto two men who were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus and would reveal Himself in the breaking of bread. Luke aptly writes how Jesus would show Himself alive after rising from the grave over a forty day period of time before He would ultimately ascend unto the right hand of the Father who was in heaven. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that the Lord Jesus didn’t merely rise from the grave on the third day but also showed Himself alive. Not only this but He showed Himself alive over a period of forty days and at one point unto upwards of about five hundred people. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead He would in fact show Himself alive of a great multitude of people which the apostle Paul alluded to in the opening verses of the fifteenth chapter of this first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. Forty days later and after having appeared unto more than five hundred people Jesus would ascend unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven.

 

            If there is one thing I absolutely love about the words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts—specifically when reading about the final interaction between Jesus and His disciples and followers—it’s that within this passage we have an incredible picture of the different manifestations of the Lord Jesus. Within the first and opening chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we of course see and witness Jesus having come in the form of human flesh and having manifested Himself unto man in an earthly body made up of flesh and blood. In addition to witnessing the first advent and coming of the Lord Jesus in the flesh we also witness and behold the second coming of the Lord Jesus which would be in the form of the Holy Spirit. There would be those who would teach and preach that when Jesus returns to the earth to gather together His saints—both the dead which are in Him and those which are alive and remain—it is “the second coming of Christ,” however, I am absolutely convinced that it is not the second coming of Christ as some would suspect. I firmly believe the first coming of the Lord Jesus was when He came in the flesh and walked among us as one of us for thirty-three and a half years. The second coming or arrival of the Lord Jesus would be in the form of the Holy Spirit for even when speaking unto the disciples in the upper room the night He was betrayed He declared unto them that even though He was departing from them he would come again unto them. This “coming again” unto them would be in the form of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit which is why the Church is called and referred to as “the body of Christ.” Here in the opening chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we encounter the first coming of the Lord Jesus in the flesh, the second coming of the Lord Jesus in the form of the Holy Spirit and the return of the Lord Jesus when He comes to gather together both the dead in Him and those which are alive and remain. When the two men clothed in white apparel spoke unto all those who were present at the mount called Olivet they declared that in the same manner in which they witnessed the Lord Jesus depart so also would He return and come again.

 

            Within the ascension of the Lord Jesus we clearly see a picture and portent of His return and coming again when He will gather together His saints to meet Him in the air. This is precisely what the apostle Paul alluded to in the final verses of the fifteenth chapter of this first epistle for the apostle Paul would write unto them concerning a mystery—the mystery that we shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed. In a moment and in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed. This language highlights and underscores the declaration made by the apostle Paul that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God and that transformation and change must needs take place within our physical bodies. The apostle Paul would write unto the Corinthian saints concerning this transformation and change which must needs take place for the flesh and blood which we presently have cannot inherit the kingdom of God. In the final verses of this particular passage the apostle Paul calls and draws the attention of the Corinthian saints to a moment in the future when the trumpet would sound and the Lord Jesus Himself would return and come again to usher in a resurrection and ascension of His saints. Within the four gospel narratives as well as the book of Acts we find the Lord Jesus being raised from death to life and ascending unto the right hand of the Father which is in heaven and we must needs recognize and understand that this resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus are powerful portents and signs pointing to our own resurrection and ascension. There is a great need for us to see within the resurrection of the Lord Jesus our own resurrection and the transformation of our physical and natural bodies and there is a great need for us to see within the ascension of the Lord Jesus our own ascension unto heaven where we will be joined together with the angelic host, the four and twenty elders, the four living creatures, the cherubim and seraphim, the eternal God, the eternal Word and the Holy Spirit. It is with this in mind I would like to call and invite you to consider the following words which were written by the apostle Paul unto the Thessalonian saints:

 

            “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 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: 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

 

 

            It is with these words the apostle Paul—when writing unto the Thessalonian saints—declares that those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall and will not prevent those who are asleep in Him. Moreover the apostle Paul goes on to declare that the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God. At the sound of this great shout together with the trump of God and the voice of the archangel the dead which are in Christ are going to rise first and then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. The words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Thessalonica were very much similar to the words he wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth for the apostle Paul taught both congregations concerning the return of the Lord Jesus to gather together unto Himself both the dead which were in Him and those which were alive and remained at the time of His coming. It’s incredibly amazing to consider how the apostle Paul wrote unto both of these churches concerning the resurrection of the dead—and not merely the resurrection of the dead but the joint ascension that would be shared by both the resurrected ones and those which were alive and remained upon the earth. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the incredible importance of this for within the fifteenth chapter of this first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthians we find him clearly setting the stage for the ultimate need for transformation that we might be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. The apostle Paul clearly set forth to demonstrate the distinction between these earthly bodies made up of flesh and blood and how they cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.

 

            The more I think about the words which are found in this particular passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the incredibly powerful reality of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and how His resurrection did indeed set up both the resurrection of the saints as well as the ascension of the saints to meet Him in the air. The Lord Jesus was indeed raised up from the grave as the firstfruits of those who would be raised from death to life and this concept of “the firstfruits of resurrection” is first seen and witnessed in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. In the twenty-seventh chapter of this New Testament gospel we are brought face to face with the tremendous reality of the death of Jesus unlocking and opening the graves of many righteous saints but how those whose graves were opened would not emerge from those graves and rise from the dead until Jesus Himself was raised from the grave. In the days immediately following the resurrection of the Lord Jesus there was a tremendous witness and testimony of resurrection and “resurrected ones” as many of the saints which slept arose and entered into the city of Jerusalem. Oh I have to admit how I would love to know who specifically rose from the grave after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and how long they were present upon the earth after that resurrection. We know that there were a number of saints which rose from the grave after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,  however, what we don’t know and what I am so curious about is who exactly experienced this initial resurrection from the dead in response to our Lord’s resurrection and how long they were upon the earth. What’s more is I find myself wondering whether or not those individuals were alive upon the earth in Jerusalem until the time of His ascension and upon His ascension were raised up together with Him in the air when He ascended unto the right hand of the Father.

 

            Scripture makes it perfectly clear that at the sound of the last trump and with the voice of the archangel the Lord Jesus will descend with a shout and gather together all those who are in Him. We understand and recognize that at the time of the Lord’s return and coming again the dead in Christ shall rise first and then we which were alive and remain will be caught up together to meet Him in the air. We know from Scripture that upon the death of Jesus the graves of many righteous saints were opened and that at the resurrection of the Lord Jesus the righteous saints which were present in these graves would emerge from them and enter into the holy city of Jerusalem appearing unto many. The Scriptures are incredibly vague concerning what exactly happened once these righteous saints were raised from death to life and appeared in the holy city of Jerusalem unto many. We know that Jesus appeared unto many over a forty day period of time as He showed Himself alive with many infallible proofs. We also know that after His resurrection Jesus returned to Galilee ahead of the disciples before He would appear and show Himself alive unto them. What makes this all the more intriguing is when you consider Jesus showing Himself alive in Galilee, the righteous saints appearing unto many in the city of Jerusalem and even Lazarus being present within Bethany. Pause for a moment and consider how there were in three different places a unique witness concerning the resurrection of the dead as the Lord Jesus was showing Himself alive, Lazarus was also very much alive, and as many of the righteous saints had entered into Jerusalem appearing unto many. Again we don’t know how long the righteous saints were alive and present upon the earth in the midst of Jerusalem and whether or not they would remain upon the earth until they died or until the ascension of the Lord Jesus when He Himself ascended unto the right hand of the Father.

 

            What makes this truly interesting is when you think about and consider the words spoken by Jesus and recorded in the New Testament gospel narrative written by John concerning His going to prepare a place for us. The Lord Jesus declared unto His disciples that He was returning unto His Father and that He was going to prepare a place for us that where He is we might be also. If the righteous saints which were raised from death to life at the death of the Lord Jesus did in fact remain upon the earth until the time of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus then I can’t help but wonder if the righteous dead who were raised from death to life upon the resurrection of the Lord Jesus were in fact permitted to remain upon the earth during those forty days Jesus was showing Himself alive in Galilee as living witnesses and proof of the resurrection. I can’t help but imagine what it must have been like in the city of Jerusalem for the Sadducees who didn’t believe in a resurrection and yet witnessed these righteous saints walking freely in the city of Jerusalem. There is something truly astounding when you think about the possibility that for forty days Jesus was showing Himself alive in Galilee while many righteous saints were showing themselves alive in the city of Jerusalem. Not to mention that of course at this time Lazarus was perhaps still in Bethany and there were those who were marvelling over his resurrection from the dead. I can’t help but wonder if the righteous saints who were alive in the city of Jerusalem appearing unto many did not remain in the city until the ascension of the Lord Jesus and met Him in the air. We know from the words which are found in the epistle written unto the Ephesians that when Jesus died and rose again He led captivity captive and brought forth a myriad of the righteous dead. Is it possible that when the Lord Jesus was raised from the dead the righteous saints rose together with Him and when He ascended into heaven He ushered the righteous dead into a place which He referred to while on the cross as “Paradise.”

 

            We know from the gospel narratives that when Jesus spoke to the thief on the cross who asked Him to remember him when He entered into His Father’s kingdom He declared that today he would be with Him in paradise. I can’t help but wonder if this thief on the cross was not perhaps one of those who experienced resurrection upon Jesus’ own resurrection and when Jesus ascended unto the right hand of the Father in heaven did was not transported together with other saints to a place called “Paradise.” Is it possible that when Jesus was raised from death to life on the third day the righteous saints rose from death to life and entered into Jerusalem as a powerful witness before ascending with the Lord Jesus upon His own ascension? How incredibly intriguing it is to think about the fact that when Jesus ascended into heaven He did not lead a host of the righteous dead up until that time together with Him to a place called Paradise. We know that when Jesus was hanging on the cross He declared unto the thief that he would be with Him in paradise which begs the question of whether or not upon His ascension He led all those righteous dead from the time of Adam until that day to this place called Paradise. Is it possible that upon the ascension of the Lord Jesus He ushered all those righteous from the time of Adam until that time to a place which He Himself referred to as Paradise when speaking to the thief on the cross? Is it possible that this place where Jesus ushered the righteous saints from the time of Adam until then was not that place he referred to in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus as “Abraham’s bosom?” Oh there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if when the Lord Jesus was raised from death to life He caused the righteous dead up to that time to rise from their graves and appear unto many while they awaited His ascension unto heaven and unto the right hand of the Father who was in heaven?

 

            I have to admit there is a part of me that greatly wonders if during those forty days the righteous saints were present upon the earth in the city of Jerusalem and were not witnesses of the resurrection and of the kingdom until that time when the Lord Jesus would ascend unto the right hand of the Father. I must also admit that it is highly likely that if the Lord Jesus did bring the righteous saints with Him upon His ascension unto the right hand of the Father then those righteous saints might have been ushered into that place called “Paradise” which He spoke of with the thief on the cross. What’s more is that when the Lord Jesus spoke unto the disciples on the night in which He was betrayed He declared unto them that He went away to prepare a place for them that where He is there He might be also. If Jesus needed to return unto His Father who was in heaven to prepare a place for His disciples and followers then it’s highly unlikely that if He ushered men and women on the day of His ascension together with Him He ushered them to the right hand of the Father. I am under the impression and distinct belief that the righteous saints whose graves were opened upon the death of Jesus and whose bodies emerged from the grave upon His resurrection and appeared unto many in the city of Jerusalem might very well have remained upon the earth during those forty days He was in Galilee and might very well have been transported upon the ascension of the Lord Jesus unto the right hand of the Father who was in heaven. Pause for a moment and think about the Lord Jesus ascending unto the right hand of the Father and upon ascending to His Father there was something even greater taking place behind the scenes. Stop and think about what it would and could have been like for the Lord Jesus to ascend unto the right hand of the Father who was in heaven and unseen in the supernatural and spiritual realm was a host of righteous saints being transported by the Lord Jesus unto paradise—including the thief on the cross whom Jesus declared was going to be with Him in paradise on that day.

 

            There is something truly awesome and incredible about the thought of the righteous saints which emerged from their graves upon the resurrection of Jesus and the possibility that they remained upon the earth bearing witness to the resurrection for a period of forty days. It is absolutely astounding to think about how for a forty day period of time after the Lord Jesus was raised from the dead there was a witness of resurrection in Bethany with Lazarus, there was a witness in Galilee with Jesus and there was a witness in Jerusalem with the righteous saints who were present in the midst of the city. What’s more is that I find it absolutely astounding to consider the fact that while we see the Lord Jesus ascending unto the right hand of the Father in heaven there might also have been something else which took place behind the scenes. If when the two men who were clothed in white apparel spoke unto those in Galilee who watched Jesus ascend unto heaven declared that in the same manner in which He departed He would return, and if when Jesus returns the dead in Christ are going to rise first and those who are alive and remain will be caught up together to meet Him in the air then what if when he ascended unto the right hand of the Father He led a host of the righteous into a place called Paradise? What if when Jesus ascended into heaven from the mount of Olives He was accompanied by the righteous saints whom he would personally usher into Paradise just as He would return and come again with all His holy angels? Stop for a moment and think about the fact that upon Jesus’ death graves were opened and upon His resurrection the righteous saints arose and emerged from their graves. If Jesus’ death and resurrection led to and accomplished each of these realities in the earth then what if His ascension was about more than simply His ascension unto heaven but also the ushering of the righteous saints into Paradise?

 

            I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is something to be said about the words and language that is found in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints—especially when dealing with the resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus. When we think about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus we must needs understand that upon His resurrection many of the righteous dead who previously slept were raised from death to life and appeared in Jerusalem. Not only this but while Jesus was showing Himself alive with many infallible proofs in Galilee there were many righteous saints who were appearing unto many in the city of Jerusalem. Add to this particular reality the incredible truth that it is very possible that when speaking of the ascension of the Lord Jesus into heaven He personally escorted many countless thousands—if not millions of righteous saints—into paradise? What if the thief on the cross—after he died and his body was brought down from the cross—was personally ushered by the Lord Jesus into paradise where the righteous saints would be until the appointed time when the Lord Jesus descends with a shout and with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet He not only draws those in paradise to Him but also those who are alive and remain upon the earth? What if those who are dead in Christ are those whom He personally ushered into paradise upon His own ascension and all those who have died in Him since He ascended were raised up together with Him—the dead in Christ—and with those which were alive and remain upon the earth met Him in the air? What if when the Lord Jesus descends with a shout and in the twinkling of an eye those whose bodies were already transformed in paradise and those who were alive in Him upon the earth experience the same glorious transformation when they meet Him in the air as they are transformed into that which is incorruptible and immortal?

 

As I bring this writing to a close I find the incredible need to ask whether or not you’d be shocked and surprised at the thought of the righteous who have died in Christ since His resurrection and all the righteous dead who died from Adam until John the Baptist are all going to be caught up together at the same time with we who are alive and remain to meet the Lord in the air? What if the Lord Jesus is and has been preparing a place—not only for the righteous saints from Adam until John the Baptist and not only for all those dead in Christ from the time of Jesus’ resurrection until the time of His return but also all those who are alive and remain will be caught up together as one great host and one great assembly to meet the Lord together in the air before they will all be personally ushered into the presence of the living God? What if “Abraham’s bosom” and the place called “Paradise” the Lord Jesus spoke of to the thief on the cross is a very real place where the righteous saints from Adam until John the Baptist as well as all the righteous dead from the time of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus until the time of His return are all present as they await the return of the Messiah? If there is anything we must needs recognize and understand it’s how incredibly important our hope in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus truly is. Not only this but our hope and trust in His ascension must also secure our trust and hope in His return for when He returns—not only will the dead in Christ rise first but we who are alive and remain at that time will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. Perhaps the single greatest thing we need to be aware of is our trust in the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus and that because He was raised from death to life we can be raised on that day. What’s more is that because the Lord Jesus ascended unto the right hand of the Father so also can we who are the righteous saints ascend on that day when the Lord Jesus returns and gathers us together to meet Him in the air.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s