When He was about to leave His disciples, Jesus did not tell them that they would soon come to Him. “I go to prepare a place for you,” He said. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself” (John 14:2, 3). Paul tells us further that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” And he adds, “Comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.) When the Lord comes, He will break the chains of death and will raise the “dead in Christ” to eternal life.
God will judge everyone by the things written in the books and reward them as their works have been. This judgment does not take place at death. “He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness.” “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all.” (Acts 17:31; Jude 14, 15.)
But if the dead are already enjoying heaven or writhing in the flames of hell, what need is there for a future judgment? Ordinary minds can understand God’s Word on these points. But what unbiased mind can see either wisdom or justice in the current theory? Will the righteous receive God’s approving words, “Well done, good and faithful servant…. Enter into the joy of your Lord,” when they have already been living in His presence for long ages? Are the wicked called from torment to receive the Judge’s sentence, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire”? (Matthew 25:21, 41.)
The theory that the soul is immortal was one of those false doc-trines that Rome borrowed from paganism. Martin Luther classed it with the “monstrous fables that form part of the Roman dunghill of decrees.”1 The Bible teaches that the dead sleep until the resurrections.
Immortality When Jesus Returns
Sweet rest for the weary righteous! Time, whether it is long or short, is only a moment to them. They sleep, and then the trumpet of God awakens them to a glorious immortality. “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible…. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).
Called to arise from their sleep, they begin to think just where they had stopped. The last sensation was the stroke of death; the last thought, that they were falling beneath the power of the grave. When they come out from the tomb, their first glad thought will be echoed in the triumphant shout, “O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55).