1 Thess. iv. 15-17
Where and How Will the Christian First Meet His Lord?
by C.E. Stuart
A Christian in his person has a body, a soul, and a spirit (1 Thess. v. 23). Apart from his body, he is not complete. The inquiry, then, in the following lines respects one in his body, and not as an unclothed spirit. Where will he first meet his Lord? That he will meet Him is certain. The Lord will return. The two men who stood by the eleven on the Mount of Olives, who were gazing upward, following as far as they could their ascended Lord, foretold His personal return, saying, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." (Acts i. 11). A personal, not merely a spiritual return, they were taught to expect; and the Lord Himself promised to come for His own, as He said, “I will come again and receive you unto Myself." (John xiv. 3). The second coming of Christ, therefore, is a truth which rests on irrefragable evidence. The Lord's last words in the volume of inspiration, “Surely I come quickly” (Rev. xxii. 20), tell us that He will fulfil His promise.
He will certainly come: "His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives." (Zech. xiv. 4), and convulsions of nature will then take place. But not there, will the Christian first meet his Lord.
Then John in vision saw Him on Mount Zion with the godly remnant of the Jews in a coming day (Rev. xiv. 1). Not there will the Christian first meet Him.
Neither on the Mount of Olives, from whence He ascended, nor on Mount Zion is he taught will be the meeting place.
The Lord will appear from Heaven riding on a white horse (Rev. xix. 11). He will come, too, in His glory with all the holy angels—Christians will witness it, but not then will they first meet Him.
Where, then, will be the meeting place? Is it the subject of divine revelation, or are we left to conjectures of men? Centuries before the Lord’s incarnation, the city of His birth was named by the prophet Micah (Micah v. 2). And only in that one verse in the whole Old Testament Scriptures could anyone have found a notice of it. But that one verse was enough. The Jews knew where Messiah was to be born; and, when questioned about it by Herod, they answered without hesitation at once.
Just one verse, and one verse only in the New Testament, states distinctly where the Christian will first meet his Lord. On earth? No. In Heaven? No. Where then will it be? Scripture is precise on the point. We quote the passage: "This we say unto you by the word of the Lord,” so wrote the Apostle Paul, "that we which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent [precede R.V.] them which are 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.” (1 Thess. iv. 15-17). In the air will the meeting take place. Who would ever have thought of that? The Lord will descend from Heaven into the air, and the Christians will all first meet Him there. How definite is Scripture. There was no uncertainty as to the place of His birth. For some seven centuries had it appeared on the page of inspiration, written with a pen by Micah, the Morasthite. For eighteen centuries has it been written where the Christian will first meet Him.
Everything about the Lord is of interest. We learn, then, of His birthplace as a man; we learn, too, of the appointed meeting between Him and all saints who have lived on earth before the rapture. Christians first to meet their Lord on earth! That thought, that expectation comes not from above.
But to meet Him in the air leads on to another question. How shall we meet Him? A change must pass over our bodies if in the air we are to meet Him. A change will pass over our bodies. "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed," is the record of the Word. (1 Cor. xv. 51). This corruptible will put on incorruption, this mortal will put on immortality. The saints who have died will be raised incorruptible. Those alive on earth then will put on immortality. How clear, how definite is the teaching of the Word! And the wisdom of it appears as time goes on. Then keeping hold of it, we have that which guides, and will keep the Christian from being led away by assertions of men, or the cunning devices of the enemy. Christians meet the Lord on earth with their bodies unchanged! Impossible. The Lord on earth, and the resurrection and rapture not yet taken place! A very short word in the English language is the fitting one to apply to characterize the suggestion. It is, it must be a lie. For our God is a God of truth; the Spirit is the Spirit of truth. What He says He will do. What He has foretold must, and will, come to pass.
C. E. Stuart.