As first generation immigrants to North America, we "Resident Aliens" have often had the experience at an airport, of waiting in international arrivals for relatives from the "Old Country." We have stood there watching and looking expectantly for the familiar face to appear. Others are there too, talking quietly to each other as the minutes pass by. Bored children invariably ask, "When are they coming?" Adults quietly reassure them by saying, "In just a moment." All is spoken with just a glance to the side, then all eyes are brought back to the swinging doors leading out of the customs area. Then the relative is there, framed in the doorway. There is a moment of instant recognition, broad smiles, children running forward to hug Grandma, embraces, emotional greetings, and the joy of reunion!
Every believer is a "Resident Alien," waiting on earth for One who is very dear to him, the Lord from heaven. This world is technically foreign to us, we do not really belong here, we are citizens of another country, "that is a heavenly." What a moment of delight when He Himself comes, visible to us, personable to us, known to us and loved. What joy it will be, seeing Him for the first time, framed in His glory!
The Coming is Revealed - John 14:1-4
The truth of His Coming for His own is found here in first mention, in embryo form, revealed in the face of the worlds hostility to His Person and His people. He was leaving them for the cross. The unmitigated hostility of this world was about to be poured out upon Him. He warns them, "If the world hates you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you" John 15 v. 18. The hostility continues to this day. It is wrong and must be changed. It will be changed; He will return and establish His rule. Then all scripture concerning Him will be fulfilled.
In Genesis 3:15 "the Seed of the Woman" will bruise the serpents head. Accomplished at Calvary, it awaits the full outworking of that great victory. Paul says "the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly" (Rom 16:20). He is spoken of as "the Seed of Abraham" (Gen 22:8) who will establish Israel as head of the nations. This has not yet happened. In Genesis 49:10, as "the Scepter of Judah," Shiloh will re-gather Israel and bring her peace. In Numbers 24:17-19, "the Star of Jacob" shall come and have dominion. The "Son of David" shall increase His government and peace (Isa 9: 7). Daniel saw the "Son of Man" come with the clouds of heaven, and He is given dominion and glory and a kingdom and all nations shall serve Him. All of this has not yet happened. Evil blossoms and violence seems to rule unhindered in a world gone awry. He declares, "I will come again and receive you unto Myself," and when He does, He will initiate the putting right of things in this wrong world.
Caught up at the Rapture - 1 Thess 4:15-17
As the truth of the coming was revealed to John, the timing was to Paul. He gives us the order of events. Living saints will not have any advantage over those who have gone before. In fact, "the dead in Christ (exclusively a New Testament concept) 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." The Lord Himself will return to claim what He has purchased with His own blood. Our sins are gone, our bodies are redeemed, and we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Here is the fullness of redemption as we leave earth for the heavenly sphere. The point of meeting is the air, not earth. Movement is entirely from earth to heaven. This is the recall of heavens earthly ambassadors before the hostilities of the tribulation commence. The rapture will restart the clock of Old Testament prophesy. The Day of the Lord shall come upon them "as a thief in the night," (1 Thess 5: 2). Paul makes it clear the Church is exempt from this, "But ye brethren are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief, . . . we are not of the night nor of darkness," (1 Thess 5:4,5). "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath and vex them in His sore displeasure." (Ps 2:4,5).
The Change of Resurrection - 1 Cor 15
The timing of resurrection is not so much in focus in this chapter but (1) the necessity and (2) the nature of resurrection are.
(1) The resurrection is necessary because Christ is risen from the dead and "is become the firstfruit of them that slept," verse 20. A great harvest must follow the firstfruit.
(2) "But some man will say (a) how are the dead raised up and (b) with what body do they come?" verse 35. Paul answers these: (a) It is like sowing a seed. Identity is not lost in sowing and growing, it is preserved. (b) He calls upon lessons learned from horticulture, biology, and astronomy to show the pattern of a distinction in bodies. Applied to the resurrected body of the saint, we learn that we will have the same identity, but our body will be of a different form and character. Sown in corruption it will be raised in incorruption; sown in dishonor it is raised in glory; sown in weakness it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. Astounding changes will take place by the demonstrative power of Divine energy. The transformation will be "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." "And we shall be changed."
The Comfort of Reunion - 1 Thess 4:17
"Together with them," tells of the miracle of reunion and the manifest union of the body of Christ. Every saint of this dispensation will be together for the first time. No schism will exist and no doctrinal differences or even differences of opinion will remain. National distinctions and ecclesiastical differences will be gone. Everyone will be gloriously changed. None will be poor, sick, weak, infirm, or old; all are infinitely rich in Christ, eternally youthful, strong, resplendent and energized in spiritual power. All are occupied with Christ. He is the center of everyones attention. Adoration and praise leap from our hearts and the "new song" is upon our lips and we begin to sing "Thou art worthy . . . "
The Crown of Rejoicing - 1 Thess 2:19
Sometimes it is asked, shall we know each other? In this verse Paul is looking forward to that day when he would see the Thessalonian saints gathered around our Lord Jesus Christ. "For what is our hope, or joy or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye before the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?" We can be assured as well that we shall see and know our loved ones and seeing them there will give us great joy. What a glad gathering and all together in the very best of company, our Lord Himself! We shall certainly know Him, and we will be like Him eternally.
The Compensation of Reward - Rev 22:12
"Behold I come quickly and My reward is with Me to give to every man according as his work shall be." He is coming to reward even the little things we have done for Him down here. How we employed our minds (Rom 14:10), motives (1 Cor 4:5), manners (2 Cor 5: 10), and materials(1 Cor 3:13), will be made manifest and rewarded accordingly.
The Compelling Results
These great truths should have an impact on our lives now and motivate us to holy living. "Everyone that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as He is pure" (1John 3:3). We should be helped to render happy service, with our eye always on the end of the race, saying like Paul, "that I might finish my course with joy," holding the things of earth loosely, "having a desire to depart to be with Christ which is very far better" (Phil 1:23). We may expectantly anticipate "a crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me in that day, and not to me only but unto all them also that love His appearing" (2 Tim 4:8).
Our time on earth is short, the prospect of heaven and home is before us. So let us demonstrate to all that we are but "Resident Aliens," heavenly ambassadors, diligent servants, and a happy people, as we wait for our Lord from heaven.