The first thing to understand about the Hope is that the dead really are dead.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
Notice God says, "in death there is no remembrance of thee." If in death, there is no remembrance of God, how can the dead be conscious in heaven with God?
The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence.
Right! "The dead praise not the Lord," because they can't; they're dead! And notice God says they "go down into silence."
So the dead don't remember God; they can't give Him thanks; they don't praise Him; and they're silent.
For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
Notice God says, "the dead know not any thing." If they don't know anything, they don't know anything! If they were conscious, they'd know something.
"The memory of them is forgotten" is a poor translation. It doesn't mean that other people forgot them. If it did, we wouldn't be able to remember anyone who had ever died. It means that what they remembered is forgotten; their memory is gone; they don't remember anything. Everything they knew, they forgot. And God says they no longer have a reward.
Let's read the next verse.
Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
All their emotions - everything they thought and felt is perished! And they're no longer a part of anything that's done under the sun forever!
For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
This is a figure of speech. The grave is put for the people in the grave. And God says they can't praise Him and they can't hope for His truth!
So the dead don't remember God; they can't give Him thanks; they don't praise Him; they're silent; they don't know anything; they no longer have rewards; they don't remember anything; their love, hatred, and envy is gone (perished); they're no longer a part of anything that's done under the sun forever; and they can't hope for God's truth! That kind of limits their abilities, doesn't it?
Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.
Why did Peter remind them that David "is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day?"
For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
Until I make thy foes thy footstool.
Notice that Peter, by inspiration, said, "David is not ascended into the heavens." Then where is he? He's in his sepulcher! So how can people believe that they can die and go immediately to heaven? If you could die and go immediately to heaven, wouldn't David already be up there? After all, David was a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). But David is not in heaven; he's dead!
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
So who has the power of death? The Bible says it's the devil! Then how is it that people say, when someone dies, that God "called him home?" If the devil has the power of death, then the devil caused him to die, either directly or indirectly.
But God wouldn't "call him home" in any case because, as we read before, he wouldn't remember God, wouldn't give Him thanks, wouldn't praise Him, wouldn't love Him, couldn't know anything, couldn't remember anything, and couldn't hope for God's truth! It'd be like having a dead body lying around the house. (Hey, it would be a dead body lying around the house!)
Now let's look at the resurrection.
If the dead are already in heaven, why do we need a resurrection? In our society it seems that the idea of the dead being already in heaven has replaced both the earnest expectation of the Hope of Christ's return, and the resurrection.
Hardly anyone yearns for Christ to come back anymore. They say when they die they go to heaven. If that were true, death would be a joyous event. But the sorrow at funerals reveals the lie!
Besides, if Jesus Christ had to be raised from the dead before he ascended up to heaven, what makes people think that they can go to heaven without being raised from the dead?
1 Corinthians 15:12-13:
Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
If there's no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ is raised from the dead!
And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
Notice God says, "if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins."
So are we saved by the cross? If Jesus Christ had done everything he did, including dying for our sins, but God hadn't raised him from the dead, your faith would be vain (empty); you would still be in your sins!
Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
So without the resurrection, Christ is not raised, our believing is vain, we are yet in our sins, and those who have fallen asleep in Christ are perished. But if people die and go immediately to heaven, they're not perished; they're alive in heaven without a resurrection! How can that be if, without the resurrection, they would be perished and still in their sins?
Notice also that God says the dead in Christ are "fallen asleep." He does not say they're "awake." That's a euphemism, but it's accurate.
When I go to sleep at night, I'm not aware of anything and I don't remember anything until I wake up. That's what death is like, except the dead don't dream. Also, when one goes to sleep, the duration of the sleep is uncertain, but the expectation is that the sleeper will awaken. That, again, is what death is like. God has promised to raise us up, but we don't know when.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
Yes, because if God does not raise us up, when we die we'll be gone forever; we'll cease to exist.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
Notice God says that all shall be made alive in Christ, but each in his own order. Christ was the first one, nearly 2000 years ago. But when shall they that are Christ's be made alive? At his coming. When will that be? According to the next verse, it's just before the end.
Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Notice God says that death is an enemy! If, when we die, we go immediately to heaven and live in glory with no death and no sickness, loving each other and praising God, then death would be a welcome friend, not an enemy!
1 Corinthians 15:32:
If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
If the dead rise not, then this life is all there is! We might as well enjoy what we can of it!
Now let's look at a couple of places where God talks about the gathering together.
1 Corinthians 15:51:
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
He says, "We." He's talking to believers, not the entire world. And notice the accurate euphemism.
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
The "corruptible" is that believer who has corrupted or can corrupt - in other words, the dead. The "mortal" is that believer who will still be alive when Christ returns.
Notice that when we're raised or changed, we'll be incorruptible and immortal. We'll literally have new bodies that will be like the body Jesus Christ has now (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2)!
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
Notice God's Word says "then." Death is not swallowed up in victory yet. But at the gathering together when we get our new bodies, it will be!
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
And what a victory that will be!
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Our labor is not in vain because, even if we die before Christ returns, God will raise us up!
1 Thessalonians 4:13:
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
When one of the believers falls asleep (not awake), I don't have to sorrow like the unbelievers who have no hope because I know that God will raise my brother or sister in Christ up at the gathering together and we will be together throughout all eternity. And I imagine that about a billion years after the gathering together, this life will be only a dim memory, about like our childhood is now.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
The word "prevent" is old English. Today we would use the word "precede." Those who will be alive when Christ returns will not be gathered before those who have fallen asleep.
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:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
The dead believers will rise with new bodies. Then we who are alive will be changed. Then we all go together to meet Jesus Christ in the air. Notice God does not say that Jesus will set foot on the earth at that time. That comes later.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Notice God says, "comfort one another with these words." He does not tell us to comfort one another by saying that the dead are already up in heaven!
After the gathering together there is a period of wrath or tribulation. That doesn't interest me all that much because we'll miss it entirely (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Instead, we'll be at the bema getting rewards (1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4). After the wrath, the devil is thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10) and everyone not in the gathering together is raised from the dead and judged according to his works (Revelation 20:11-13). Then there'll be a new heaven and a new earth which will last forever (Revelation 21:1-4). There's not much in the Word about what we'll be doing there, but just the fact that we'll be dwelling in righteousness will make it wonderful!
By Jeffrey Moore, Southern California
Copyright © 1993 - 2012, Jeffrey Moore