1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God…
These words imply —
I. PERSONAL NEARNESS TO CHRIST. At present the saints may be said to be at a distance from Him. "While we are at home in the body," etc. Spiritually, of course, Christ is with "two or three who meet together in His name." But after the resurrection we shall be brought near Him, body and soul, and in His presence find fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore.
II. IMMEDIATE VISION OF CHRIST. He prayed for His disciples to be with Him, that they might behold His glory. This was seen once at the Transfiguration; but Christians are not now fitted to enjoy such glory; it would over power our sight as it did Saul's, and prostrate us as it did John. We can only see it by the eye of faith, and this partial sight is sufficient to make Christ the object of our supreme affection and esteem. But the time will come when we shall see Him with the eye of our glorified body, and be able to bear the stupendous sight. There we shall see that face, which on earth was marred more than any man's, smiling with more than the brightness of a thousand suns; that head, which was pierced with thorns, crowned with glory and honour; that body, which was arrayed in mock majesty, shining with a beauty of which we can form no conception.
III. PERFECT RESEMBLANCE TO CHRIST. We are predestinated to be conformed to the image of God's Son. This resemblance commences at regeneration; but the features are faint at first; but by constant contemplation of the glory of Christ, they become more marked. This now is the case with the spirit; at the resurrection our bodies will be fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body. And then the progress of both in likeness to Christ shall be eternal.
IV. A CONSTANT SENSE OF THE PRESENCE, LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP OF CHRIST, We have these here, but not constantly. Clouds of doubt and sinfulness on our side, and of displeasure on His, intervene. But in the heavenly world there shall be nothing to bar intercourse and manifestation for a single moment.
V. SOCIAL ENJOYMENT. Where Christ is all His people are, and none but His people. Here society is mixed, the bad blended with the good. The good are removed, and leave us to mourn their departure. But in heaven no one departs, and all are good. It is an inspiring thought that we shall forever be with all the good.
VI. FELICITY SATISFACTORY IN ITS NATURE AND ETERNAL IN ITS DURATION. Our best earthly enjoyments are unsatisfactory — they do not fill the soul; transient — they do not last. Even our highest enjoyments of Christ are not all that we should like them to be. But "we shall be satisfied when we awake in His likeness."
(J. McKinlay, D. D.)Forever with the Lord! forever! forever! were the last words of Robert Haldane.
Parallel VersesKJV: For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: