Redemption or Abandonment?

At the heart of the salvation provided by Jesus is the future resurrection at Christ’s return and the arrival of the new creation

Central to the church’s understanding of salvation is REDEMPTION. God is not abandoning what He created, but recovering and restoring what is enslaved by sin, decay, and death. In His redemptive plans, the end state of the redeemed is vastly superior to the original, and this is epitomized in the promise of bodily resurrection.

And until the day when Jesus arrives in glory, his church must remain focused on harvesting the earth as it proclaims the gospel message to all nations. That is the task he has assigned his disciples until they see him coming in the same manner as they saw him “departing into heaven.”

In fact, the “end” will not come until his church has completed this task. THAT is the factor that determines the date of his return. Removing his church from the earth several years before its completion is not an option.

And when the Apostle Paul discusses the hope of the church, invariably, he bases it on the past death AND resurrection of Jesus on behalf of all men. Salvation was not achieved by his sacrificial death alone, but also through his resurrection from the dead.

And just as consistently, when Paul talks about the future resurrection, he also links it to the past resurrection of Jesus - (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 20-23).


Thus, the apostolic tradition teaches redemption, not abandonment. Salvation is actualized in all its fullness at the resurrection of the dead when all believers “meet” Jesus as he descends from heaven.

At that time, dead believers are resurrected and living ones transformed, and both groups receive their immortal bodies (“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality”).

And just as consistently, Paul locates the bodily resurrection of the righteous at the “arrival” or ‘parousia’ of Jesus - (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

In First Thessalonians, he reassures Christians concerning the fate of their fellow believers who have died before the “arrival” of Jesus, and that is why he lays stress on their bodily resurrection at the ‘parousia.’

Not only so, but any believer remaining alive will be reunited with his resurrected loved ones, then together, all the saints will “meet the Lord in the air” as he descends from heaven.

Both living and dead Christians will be changed forever when he appears, and after that moment, the ENTIRE CHURCH will be with him “forevermore.”

The passage does NOT state that Jesus then takes his saints back to “heaven” after he “meets them in the air.” It only ends with the statement, “and so will we be with the Lord forevermore.”

The Apostle does not state exactly where this happy state will be after the saints “meet” the Lord “in the air,” only that it will be “forevermore.”


When interpreting the final verse of the passage, the larger context must be kept in view. In the next chapter, Paul warns that the unprepared will be overtaken by the events of that day - “like a thief in the night.”

Christ’s “arrival” also coincides with the “day of the Lord,” an event associated in Scripture with God’s judicial punishment of the wicked.

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul declares that when Jesus is “revealed from heaven,” the righteous will be vindicated but the unrighteous will receive “everlasting destruction.” Both events occur on the same day - (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

In the New Testament, Jesus is always “coming” and never “going” at his return. When any physical direction is provided, he is said to be coming “from heaven” and descending to the earth where he will gather his saints to himself - (Matthew 16:27, 24:30, 25:31, 26:64, Acts 1:11, 1 Corinthians 15:23, Revelation 1:7).

The most comprehensive list of the events that will occur on that day is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians when he was correcting false teachings that denied the bodily resurrection - (1 Corinthians 15:20-28, 50-57).

Christ’s “arrival” will result in the cessation of death (the “last enemy”), the resurrection of the dead, the final subjugation of all hostile powers. the consummation of the kingdom, and the transformation of the saints still alive that day from mortality to immortality.

The bodily resurrection will mean nothing less than the termination of death, and believers still alive at the time will be transformed, the very same scenario presented to the Thessalonians.

Paul’s point is NOT THE REMOVAL of the church from the earth, but the resurrection and transformation of its members, both the dead and the living.


And his “arrival” will result in the separation of the righteous from the unrighteous. It will be a day of joy for the spiritually prepared, but one of disaster and everlasting punishment for the unprepared.

And the old “heaven and earth” will be dissolved, and the new heavens and new earth will be inaugurated - (Matthew 13:30. 25:13, 25:31-46, Luke 12:33-39, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, 2 Peter 3:10-11).

And one thing that characterizes that day is its finality. Death will cease, the old and death-doomed creation will disappear, resurrected believers will be with the Lord “forevermore,” and the unrighteous will receive “everlasting” destruction - (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, 2 Thessalonians 2:5-10).

The disciple's hope is not found in escape from the spacetime continuum or the desertion of God’s original creation, but instead, in the bodily resurrection and the New Creation.

The gospel proclaimed by Jesus is about redemption, including the resurrection of the dead. Unfortunately, over the centuries, this central hope of the apostolic faith has dimmed and even been pushed aside.

Connected directly to resurrection is the new heavens and new earth. Even now, the entire universe is “groaning,” not in despair over its eventual annihilation, but in anticipation of the resurrection of the “sons of God” and the “restoration of all things” that will follow. Their resurrection will mean the redemption of the entire Cosmos - (Romans 8:19-25, 2 Peter 3:10).

In the end, the city of New Jerusalem DESCENDS from heaven to the new earth. The saints do not ascend to it. It comes down to them. And in that glorious city, the men and women redeemed by the “blood of the Lamb” will live forevermore in his presence free from all sorrow, suffering, and death.



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