“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” — Philippians 1:21
“ … we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air …” -1 Thessalonians 4:17
“By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” — 1 Corinthians 6:14
A favorite devotional of mine is entitled, “For the Love of God.” It is a two volume work by Don Carson published by Crossway Books in 1998. I have used the devotional off and on for many years and would commend it to you if you are looking for something to read alongside your Bible.
In the reading for October 21, Carson points out regarding 1 Thessalonians 4:17 that many contemporary Bible scholars hold that the Apostle Paul thought Jesus would return in his lifetime. So these critics say, Paul was obviously wrong.
Carson helps me with the interesting observation that Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:14 includes himself with those that would be raised from the dead. In this verse Paul did not think he would be alive at Christ’s return. Whoops, the contemporary critics of the apostle spoke too quickly!
So what is Paul doing in these verses? Paul is simply including himself with the believers he is addressing: either those that will still be alive at Christ’s return, or those that will be raised from the dead to eternal life.
Indeed in Philippians 1:21 Paul is in prison in Rome and does not know what the outcome of his trial will be. He thinks he will be acquitted, but if not he will go on to an even better existence with Christ in heaven.
Paul did not know when he would die, nor when Jesus would return. But he could face the future with peace and confidence that Christ will return and powerfully transform our temporal bodies into glorious bodies.
Here are three applications for today.
First, contemporary scholars can be, and are frequently mistaken. We need to read widely and from diverse sources, including from scholars that respect God’s word.
Second, I am thankful for scholars like Carson who help me understand the Bible correctly.
Third, like Paul, are you and I ready for Christ’s return whether it comes before or after our deaths?