For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17)


This verse is often quoted as proof of a future bodily return of Christ that will be followed by the “rapture” of the church. Isn’t there a more reasonable explanation for this passage, such as a coming spiritual awakening, than believing in the “invasion of the body snatchers”?


The simple truth is that Paul was not correct about all things, especially this vital question of the Second Coming. He believed that Jesus would be returning in the immediate future; thus his urging people to make no changes in their lives, because it was all about to end anyway. But as time went on and Jesus didn’t return, and believers began to die, people began to grumble and wander back to their previous faiths. What’s the point of undergoing the persecution required to be a Christian if you were just going to die before anything interesting happened?

Paul’s response was this assurance that those who died as Christians would be the first into the kingdom at the Second Coming, followed by the living Christians.  In the process he lifted the 'kingdom of heaven' from the new consciousness Jesus describes as being present here, in this human experience, within us to a kind of floating Las Vegas in the sky that we achieve after death and/or rapture.

Metaphysically, of course, we understand the message of Jesus to be the true guide to our future spiritual progress. The Second Coming is not the return of Jesus but the expression of Christ consciousness in each and all of us, transforming our earthly existence into what Jesus calls the kingdom of heaven. In that kingdom we will, indeed, “be with the Lord forever.” But more importantly, we will be the Lord forever—one with Jesus in expressing our Christ energy and creating new possibilities for expressing the Divine.


Rev. Ed


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