The personal return of Christ is essential doctrine in the gospel. It relates to the consummation of life in Him and its truth is taught by the Lord (John 11:25-27, 14:1-6). The Lord Himself will come to receive His redeemed ones to Himself and accompany them into the Father’s house. To Mary and Martha He taught that redeemed ones who have died will be raised in resurrection bodies. The Lord did not seem to elaborate further on these truths in His ministry.
The ascension of the Lord Jesus into glory in Acts 1:9-11 assures that all believers are spiritually raised and seated with Him in the heavenlies. As our forerunner (Heb 6:20), He is our guarantee of ascension as one united, glorified people. When He steps to the air with a shout of triumphant power both sleeping and living saints will rise to be forever with the Lord (l Thess 4:13-18).
Believers who have died and are at home with the Lord are not in a state of unconsciousness. The “sleeping” of I Thess 4:13-14 is that of the body awaiting the awakening of resurrection. There is no Scripture to support the idea that the souls of sleeping saints are unaware or unoccupied in heaven. Paul by the Spirit teaches, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (more of Christ) … having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ” (Phil 1:21,23). The writer to the Hebrews writes of “the spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb 12:23). Surely this indicates a broader and purer appreciation of Christ than presently realized.
Our changed body (not reconstructed) will be fashioned anew, conformed to the body of His glory (Phil 2:21 R.V.). It will be a body suited to the new conditions of its eternal destiny. The body which we are to receive will bear the individual’s identity but not be composed of the same materials, because our present body was created for an earthly sphere with the need to daily replenish itself (I Cor 15:37-44).
This glorious moment of the fullness of redemption will bring believers into the consummation of our sonship. Union with the Son of God will bring us into joint heir-ship with Him. Believers are spoken of as heirs of God (Rom 8:16,17,23). Paul speaks of this great inheritance in Ephesians 1:14. When a sinner turns to Christ, he is sealed for God eternally. The Holy Spirit takes up habitation in the body of the believer, a guarantee of the purpose of God for redemption of that which is corruptible and mortal, to the praise of the glory of God. Then we shall be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven (2 Cor 5:2).
Him eye to eye we then shall see,
Our face like His shall shine;
O what a glorious company
Where saints and angels join.
O what a glorious meeting there!
In robes of white arrayed;
We all shall join in praising Him
Whose glories never fade.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.