July 22, 2016



Dick D. Christen

Let’s call it a journey. Or we could use the terms ‘sojourn’, ‘adventure’ or ‘transmigration.’ This last word is defined secondarily in a dictionary as “the passage of a soul after death into another body.”

A believer in Jesus Christ has it from the lips of the Savior Himself that going from earth to heaven will effectively take place, either at the rapture of the Church or at one’s death.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 definitively describes the rapture as the sudden appearance of Jesus in the atmospheric heavens: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a  shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (vv 16-18). No date is assigned in Scripture. It could happen at any moment and will be an event of world-wide proportions. It will be an atmospheric drama choreographed by God Himself and witnessed by all! People on earth will gaze on it. When Jesus appears He will have with Him believers who already died. They will be reunited with their earthly bodies and, together with Christians then living on earth, will congregate in the heavens. At some point during this spectacular event the souls and bodies of those lifted from the earth will be changed “in a moment in the twinkling of an eye.” They will be freed from the troublesome miseries of sin’s curse. This amazing, God-wrought occurrence is also set forth in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. 

     But in the meantime and until the rapture every believer dies at his or her appointed time. In spite of all the daily evidences in life, the graveyards and passing hearses, too many still remain in a state of denial concerning the inevitability of death. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I WILL DIE, unless first swept up in the rapture of the Church.

Some monks in the Middle Ages kept skulls in their rooms inscribed with the words memento mori, meaning “remember your death.” I wouldn’t recommend such an eerie practice today, but more openness about the reality of our common mortality should certainly be in vogue.

That people avoid the subject, never raising the issue, never asking a Christian about it, and never searching the Bible for answers, is most disconcerting. To such, ignorance is deemed bliss. Nevertheless, the Word of God speaks forthrightly about death and tells us the Lord even sovereignly determines the when and the how. We may well struggle with God’s timing and even think it wrong, too soon or unfortunate (especially in the case of a child). And we may well question Him when anyone near and dear to us passes on. At times we may find ourselves hastily sympathizing with Carl Jung when he said, “It (death) is a period placed before the end of a sentence.” But, remember, dear hurting one, our days are numbered (Psalm 90:12), and this by the God who is too loving to be unkind and too wise to make a mistake. In His all-knowing overview of the beginning to the end of all things, He makes all such determinations perfectly so. He even sees horrible happenings that may await anyone if he or she lived additional days. Eternity will reveal just how wisely and precisely he did the counting. The end of our earthly sojourn will come, and so, like the Psalmist, we find solace saying, “My times are in Your hand” (Psalm 31:15). And, we do this fully trusting and resting in His sovereign care.

Jesus possibly referenced both the rapture and this moment of personal demise when He said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). It is surely most comforting and soothing to the soul to mull the fact that Jesus wants His followers with Him; and this, in the very place He has gone to prepare for them. How intimate! The One of infinity desires just such intimacy.

The Psalmist anticipated the believer’s personal departure from this earth when he said, “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away” (Psalms 90:10). What? At death the believer flies away? What does this mean? How does it happen? Does he or she sprout wings? Or, does the departing soul obtain some kind of jet pack which enables a swooshing, rapid upturn, like a departing jet? Perhaps the Lord sends some kind of heavenly chariot to whisk us away like Elijah? How do Christians fly away? In the above passage I believe the “it” refers to the earlier mentioned “strength.” With God-given strength we may live to 80 or beyond. Then, God, the giver and taker of life, cuts it off and we’re out of here. Again, our life struggles as well as our times are all in His hands.

But, an inquisitive mind wants to hear the details about this ‘at death’ experience which takes the Christian from earth to glory.
The Bible sets forth at least SIX DISTINCT STEPS OR PHASES involved:

1.     For whatever cause, at death THE BELIEVER'S SOUL LEAVES THE BODY. How do we know? Well, centuries ago the Old Testament saints, Jacob and Rachel, while journeying, alarmingly became aware that Rachel was going to give birth. The baby was born but not without much pain and agony. Sadly, Rachel died. The Scripture spells it out this way: “Rachel began to give birth and she suffered severe labor. When she was in severe labor the midwife said to her, ‘Do not fear, for now you have another son.’ It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin” (Genesis 35:16-18). Ponder the phrase “as her soul was departing (for she died).” This undergirds the statement that at death THE PERSON OR SOUL LEAVES THE BODY.

A father was at the beach with his children when his four-year-old son ran up to him, grabbed his hand, and led him to the water’s edge where a seagull lay dead on the sand. “Daddy, what happened to him?” the son asked. “He died and went to heaven,” the dad replied. The boy thought for a moment and then said, “Did God throw him back down?” The lad did not understand that a living being, the soul, lives inside a body, and is still a living being, whether in a body or out of it.

Well then, what is a “soul?” The soul is the person. What is the “person?” A person is the soul. What is its make-up? What are the constituent parts of a person or soul?

Three things comprise a person: Firstly, INTELLECT.  A person thinks, reasons and ponders. Knowledge is stored up. It is remembered. It is used for life purposes. Action is the proper fruit of knowledge. Thomas Watson said, “Knowledge is the eye that must direct the foot of obedience.” And, secondly, EMOTION. A person or soul feels. The range of emotions is wide, all the way from joy to despair. It includes negatives (anger, wrath, jealousy, etc.) and positives (joy, happiness, pleasurableness, etc.). We feel deeply, lengthily or at times fleetingly. Then, there is the last part of personhood, WILL OR VOLITION. A person or soul makes decisions. I like Frederik P. Wood’s statement: “The will is the deciding factor in everything that we do. In every sphere of life it settles alternatives.”

And so, by way of summary, these three factors, intellect, emotion and will, constitute a person or a living soul. It is dignifying to remember that God is a person. He is what we are because He made us in His image. He is the eternal soul. We, His creatures, are but everlasting souls. Every soul will exist forever either in heaven or in hell. The Bible is very clear about this. At death, the soul redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, leaves the body and goes to heaven to be with Jesus. Jesus’ desire, expressed in John 14:3, is thus fulfilled. Remember, He said, “that where I am, there you may be also.” He wants us close to Him.

Once, while walking by a casket and holding my three year old daughter, I explained that grandma wasn’t in the body anymore. She is in heaven. I said to her that the body is like a turtle shell. She has left her shell behind. She’s gone. Interestingly, she grasped the idea and seemingly was satisfied.

At this point, Henry Scott Holland’s illustrative words are so beautiful to contemplate: “I am standing on the seashore. A ship spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean. I stand watching her until she fades on the horizon, and someone at my side says, ‘She is gone.” Gone where? The loss of sight is in me, not in her. Just at the moment someone says, ‘She is gone,’ there are others who are watching her coming. Other voices take up the glad shout, ‘Here she comes,’ and that is dying.”
2. At death A CHRISTIAN FLIES AWAY. This idea isn’t just the fancy of an old southern gospel song. It is wonderfully spelled out in the Bible. Psalm 90:10 clearly says that at death, “we fly away.” But, how does this happen? Again, “What does this mean? Do we sprout wings? Or, does the departing soul take on some kind of jet pack which enables a swooshing, rapid upturn like a departing jet? Or, does the Lord send some kind of heavenly chariot to whisk us away, even as He did with Elijah? Do we have any answers to these questions?

Informatively, a story in Luke 16:19-31 gives us some details. We are told of a rich man who lived most sumptuously; also, there was a poor man living in misery. They knew of each other. Often the bedraggled man lay at the rich man’s door begging for food while the dogs licked his sores. God gives us the name of the bereft sufferer. He was Lazarus.

God delights in personalizing or naming the objects of His grace. John 10:3 declares that when Jesus enters the sheepfold “the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” And so, in another story and amidst the masses of Jericho, Jesus, making His way through town, notices a little man climbing a tree. He stops, looks up into a tree and warmly, but directly says, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5). Soon in his own home Zaccheus believes in Jesus and with promised amends gives positive evidence of a wonderfully changed life.

Now, back to the Luke 16 passage. We hear the name ‘Lazarus’ but never do learn the name of the rich man who died and went to Hades. At the Great White Throne judgment he will be consigned a place in gehenna (hell) forever. But when Lazarus died we are told this: “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (v22). Think about this! He flew away by means of angel wings! Isn’t this an eye-popping tidbit of God-ordered aerospace experience? His soul leaves his body and the angels are there to greet him. Lovingly they take his soul and zoom upwards.  Lazarus hears the flutter of their wings and gains reassurance of his promised destination. They talk with him just like Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration discussed with Jesus His return to heaven after the resurrection. They offer some glimpses into what he will experience once on the golden streets. Perhaps they tell him something about the dwelling place Jesus has built for him. Heaven, being rich with color, they clue him in on the color scheme and the mansion’s layout, the furniture and other homey accoutrements. When nearing glory they begin to hear singing, ever so faintly but then louder and louder. It’s beautiful and possesses that mysterious and substantive essence of many waters tumbling. In describing heaven, the Apostle John says, “Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns’” (Revelation 19:6). After winging through the darkness of space, the light of the city, at first dim and distant, now becomes brilliant. It’s the brightness of glory. Jesus shone with this brilliance on the Mount of Transfiguration. The soul of Lazarus can tolerate it. He’s changed. No sunglasses are needed because his innate sinfulness, along with all weaknesses of his earthly sojourn, fade into his recent past. God bestows all properties suitable and needed for the eternal state. Lazarus and the angels chatter about other details while nearing the threshold of heaven. In other words, when a believer in Jesus Christ dies, he does not wander alone and cold in outer space searching for a path upward. No, he at once, without any hesitation, travels heavenward.

Soon after he died in l993, country singer Conway Twitty’s duet partner, Loretta Lynn, strangely pleaded with Twitty’s spirit to return to his body. Lynn was visiting a Missouri hospital when Twitty, who had suffered an aneurysm, was brought to the hospital’s intensive care unit. He died. “I’d always heard that the spirit stays right there above the body for a while, so when I went back to intensive care, I stood beside Conway’s body and tried to talk him back down,” Lynn said. “I said, ‘Conway, don’t die on me. You know you don’t want to go.’” Lynn told the story in “The View From Nashville,” by Ralph Emery the longtime broadcaster.

The Bible dispenses all such erroneous notions about death. Rather, as would be expected from a loving and caring heavenly Father, a deceased believer at once receives a warm personal escort to his promised abode. Hallelujah, what a Savior! Dear reader, do you have the certainty of such a transition at death? Paul prayed for the Roman believers, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). The Apostle said, “We are…well pleased to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Joseph Parker (1830-1902) was a beloved preacher in England. When his wife died, he didn’t have the customary wording inscribed on her gravestone. Instead of the word died followed by the date of her death, he chose the word ascended. Joseph Parker found great comfort in being reminded that though his wife’s body had been placed in the grave, the “real” Mrs. Parker had been transported to heaven, into the presence of her Savior. When Parker himself died, it’s no wonder that his friends made sure that his gravestone read: Ascended November 28, 1902.

3.     Leaving this earthly scene and arriving in heaven, A BELIEVER IN JESUS CHRIST IS PERSONALLY WELCOMED BY JESUS HIMSELF. Can we not arrive at such a conclusion remembering that He promised to prepare a place just for us? If this is so, will He not want to be on hand to witness us seeing it for the first time?

Remember, He kindly gave us details about what He would do after His ascension. He said, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also…” (John 14:2-3). He wants us to be where He is.

All the Bible is a grand invitation to come to God through Jesus Christ not only for freedom from the guilt and penalty of sin, now, but ultimately for grand and glorious communion with the hosts of heaven, the redeemed who have gone before, and with Jesus Himself. It seems only reasonable to assume His ‘in- person’ welcome in heaven. He wants us with Him! May I ask, how much more blessed and endearing could it be?
Ronald Sider reminds us that “for the early Christians koinonia was not the frilly ‘fellowship’ of church-sponsored by-weekly outings. It was not tea, biscuits and sophisticated small talk in the Fellowship Hall after the sermon. It was an unconditional sharing of their lives with the other members of Christ’s body.” Certainly heaven will maximize this “unconditional sharing.” Talk about transparency! Talk about the absence of hypocrisy! This will be true friendship. A friend is someone who comes in when the world goes out. Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother and when we leave this world, there He will be! In the rapture, all are gathered unto Him in the atmospheric heaven! We meet the Lord in the air! “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Should we expect any less at our personal death and arrival in heaven? And, since He held little children in His arms on earth, is it unreasonable that we, being His children, can expect a warm embrace from Him! Think about it! Embraced, hugged and patted by the nail pierced hands of our Creator and Savior. And with this, we’ll also experience the concomitant closeness for which we’ve eagerly longed with loved-ones gone before.

Given these beautiful realities, would any departed person desire to return to earth, even if they could? If, with the poet we would say,

“If tears could build a stairway
     And memories a lane,
I’d walk right up to heaven
     And bring you home again,”

…do we really think any gloriously departed saint would respond to such an invitation?

4. Arriving in glory THE CHRISTIAN RECEIVES A HEAVENLY BODY. When believers die and arrive in heaven, are they bodiless? Are they just wandering souls? Or, are they floating ghosts merely whisping here and there?

To answer such questions let us remember that the place Jesus has gone to prepare for His own is described in explicit material or physical detail. Twice Jesus called it a place. He said, “I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself” (John 14:2-3). It is not a figment of the imagination. Nor is it mere dreamy ‘pie in the sky.’ It is real, touchable and alive to the senses. Because it is described so minutely we must conclude it to be substantive, physically so.

Let us ask, what did the Apostle John see in his heavenly visit? He says, “The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone…. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass” (Revelation 21:18-21). In a nearby verse we are told the entire city is gold. Now, for such a place to be appreciated it seems logical that a body with sensory perceptions would be incumbent. God never created living beings to be without bodies. Indeed, when the Apostle Paul reveals the fact that believers in heaven will have bodies, he says, “inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked” (2 Corinthians 5:3). Could not the “it” refer to a celestial body? In 1 Corinthians 15, the very instructive resurrection chapter in the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us about different kinds of bodies. “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another” (1 Corinthians 15:39-40). When believers arrive in heaven could there be a heavenly body awaiting their occupancy?

Note also that when Jesus cast out evil spirits from the wild Gadara demoniacs, the demons desired earnestly to inhabit the bodies of nearby pigs. The story goes like this: When Jesus, traveling, “came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?’ Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them.  And the demons begged him, saying, ‘If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.’” (Matthew 8:28-31). In other words, all living beings, whether animal or human, apparently are meant to indwell bodies.

There are two passages of Scripture that seem to clearly set this forth. One is 2 Corinthians 5:1-9. It says, “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” It seems reasonable to equate the terms “earthly tent” “a building from God” “this house” “our dwelling from heaven,” set forth in the early verses of this passage, with the word “body” used twice in the last verses of the passage. Again, the Apostle Peter also, clearly referring to his present body, calls it “my tent.” In 2 Peter 1:14 he talks about “the laying aside of my earthly dwelling” as imminent, as also the Lord Jesus Christ had made clear to him. The word “dwelling” can be translated as “tent.” Our conclusion can well be that when we die we leave our earthly bodies behind, arrive in heaven, and are at once clothed upon with some sort of a celestial body.

Again, in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul declares, “There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another” (v 40). Angels have bodies. Jesus has a body in heaven. Those who have gone before, Moses and Elijah, showed up on the Mount of Transfiguration visibly and bodily, both seen and recognized. Luke reports, “And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him” (Luke 9:30-32). Peter and his friends saw Moses and Elijah! Their earthly bodies could see the celestial bodies. When it says Moses and Elijah appeared “in glory” it means “in splendor.” Hereby, we are apprised of the spectacular nature of our heavenly bodies. Unimaginable!

And so, can we not believe that Christians are clothed upon with celestial bodies when they arrive in glory? When returning with Christ in the rapture of the Church, it could well be that somehow the celestial bodies are fused or meshed with the resurrected earthly bodies. Perhaps the celestial bodies are in appearance similar to what the earthly resurrected bodies will be. If so, this would allow for instant recognition by believers of one another in heaven even though vast improvements may well be the case also. Thereupon, with their celestial/resurrected bodies Christians will forever live, eating (as Jesus did with His resurrected body), and functioning bodily (as Jesus did in many ways), and all this forever upon their return to heaven. What hope! What understanding God gives. No wonder, that when Christians die, although grieving (but not as others who have no hope) we sometimes call our funeral services, Celebrations.

In AD 125, a man named Aristides sent a letter to an acquaintance to give this explanation for the rapid spread of Christianity: “If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they escort his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.”

5. Once in heaven, CHRISTIANS WILL EXPERIENCE THE BEMA REVIEWING STAND OF JUDGMENT AND THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB. Amidst all the wonders of heaven, two highly important events will transpire:

First, THE BEMA SEAT OF JUDGMENT. This appointment should not be confused with the Great White Throne Judgment Seat. This latter place of judgment happens just after the 1,000 year millennial reign of Jesus and is for unbelievers (Revelation 20:11-15). The Bema Judgment happens in heaven soon after the rapture. Do we not sense an immediacy for this when Scripture declares, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me…” (Revelation 22:12). Jesus calls His people to a time of accountability.

There are several key passages of Scripture that give us the details. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 sets forth the event in this way: “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” Romans 14:10 forthrightly declares: “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” No excuses will be valid. We “will” stand there.

2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” This momentous occasion is not to determine whether or not a believer can stay in heaven. No, Scripture is clear. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The believer’s sin was judged on Jesus’ Cross. The purpose, as the text clearly says, is that “each one may be recompensed for his deeds.” This has to do with rewards for the life lived on earth. He saves sinners, not by their good works, but He does save them unto good works or Christ-honoring behavior. This is crystal clear when the Apostle Paul states: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10). These works of righteousness will be noted and honored. This fact may well indicate degrees of enjoyment in heaven. Hence the books are open. All will be agog with the splendors of the New Jerusalem, but the ability to appreciate it may well be of differing degrees. Those living a more Godly life on earth will possibly have a deeper sense of meaning or aesthetic appreciation than others. Again, all will be wonderful, but some will sing “the wonder of it all” more ardently.

The Bible also sets forth the five crowns that will be given, if earned, in these passages: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:1-4 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19.

And then, the second major happening, THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB. In the context of heaven we read this: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready. It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are true words of God.’ Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’” (Revelation 19:7-10).

Probably toward the end of the seven years in heaven this marriage of the Lamb (Jesus) to the Bride (the Church) will take place. The language “for the marriage of the Lamb has come” really means “is come.” It is an aorist tense indicating the fact in an immediate sense. Her clothing speaks of “the righteous acts of the saints” thereby indicating that the Judgement Seat is past and she now comes perfectly arrayed to the marriage.

Paul anticipated this when in 2 Corinthians 11:2 the longing of his heart for believers is expressed in this way: “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.” So, in effect, the Church now and during the initial time in heaven is betrothed or engaged to Jesus. Then, before returning with the Lord to reign with Him in His Kingdom, the wedding comes.

6.     Finally, when the seven years in heaven are expired (during which time the judgments of God fall upon the wicked earth), CHRISTIANS RETURN WITH JESUS TO EARTH TO DEFEAT ALL THE NATIONS CONVERGED AGAINST ISRAEL, SAVE HER, AND ESTABLISH HIS 1,000 YEAR MILLENNIAL REIGN.

The Apostle John says, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS’” (Revelation 19:11-16). Victory at last!

“The armies which are in heaven” are the Church. We come back to earth to reign with Him. Notice, we will be clothed not in military garb, but “in fine linen, white and clean” because the battle will not be ours but His. And we will reign forever and ever with Him. After the Kingdom is established, the Church continues to dwell in the New Jerusalem which descends out of heaven, lingering in the air, until the great cleansing conflagration of 2 Peter 3 is accomplished. The earth now being completely purged, the New Jerusalem settles forever on the “new” earth. This will be the dwelling place, eventually, for all the redeemed saints of both Israel and the Church, peace between them forever wrought by the blood of the Lamb. The names of the twelve tribes (Israel) are over the gates while the names of the Apostles (representing the Church) are scripted on the twelve foundations of beautiful stones. What is true now spiritually for both Jews and Gentiles, being made one in Christ in the Church, will then find its physical actuality in the New Jerusalem. “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might  make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:13-16).

And to brighten our hope, Jesus says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” And we say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).