We had an interlude on a book and now we are back to finish up our series on heaven. Is “heaven” the permanent eternal place or, like some are arguing today, is it an alternative world, perhaps only temporary, but which is the source of what will be the final state here on earth? We are looking at this kind of question, and we turn now to 1 Thessalonians:
1:9 For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead?Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming. (See also 2 Thess 1:7.)
4:13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15 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. 16 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. 17 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.
Jesus, God’s Son, is in heaven “now” and will come from heaven to earth when history is wrapped up.
When Jesus comes from heaven, he will “rescue us from the wrath that is coming.” This anticipates what we find in 4:13-17.
Second, the coming/return of Christ from heaven.
Third, the dead in Christ will be raised.
Fourth, the live in Christ will be “caught up” (raptured).
Fifth, the dead and the alive will be joined with Christ “in the air.”
Sixth, the dead and the alive in Christ will be with the Lord forever.
There’s not a word here about what happens after they meet one another in the air. It is possible that Paul thinks they will return to earth and all on earth will be transformed. It is also possible, if I read this text aright, they will be with the Lord in the heavens from which he came down.
The theory that heaven is the eternal place has a text here in its defense; those who don’t agree with that view have a text here that doesn’t quite fit and needs other texts to explain it.
My question: Are to we to splice together all these texts about heaven into a synthesis that no one in the Bible clearly synthesized? Or, do each of these “heaven” texts give us an impression of the eternal?