“No one hath ascended into heaven, but (except) he that descended out of heaven, even the Son of man, who is in heaven” (John 3:13). The entire New Testament bears record to the fact that the Son of God found it necessary to come out of heaven in order to become the Saviour of the world. “The second man is the Lord out of heaven” (I Corinthians 15:47). The preposition “ek” meaning “out of”, often translated “of, from”, proves conclusively that Christ came out of heaven once to die a redeeming death, and although now in heaven, will come out of heaven again. Most Christians profess to believe in His first coming out of heaven, but are ignorant of or deny the fact that He will come again, although the entire New Testament with the exception of three books, Philemon, 2nd and 3rd John, bears witness to the fact and in the same language which describes His first coming. No doubt fanatical date-setters have spoiled this glorious truth for most Christians, but such cannot alter the infallible Word of God. The whole philosophy of Christianity is hopeless and pessimistic apart from it; for the Bible no where holds out hope of immortality and resurrection apart from it, and if it will never occur, then Christians are of all men most to be pitied (I Corinthians 15:23, 19). A failing and powerless Christendom surely presents to the world a defeated God, when it throws away the hope of Christ’s coming with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).
Every true Christian has been made conformable with Christ’s death (Philippians 3:10), i. e., has been crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:6; Colossians 3:3) for the penalty of sin, and has been given the hope of having his body of humiliation made conformable with Christ’s body of glory Philippians 3:21). This redemption of the body (Romans 8:23) is to be realized when Christ next comes out of heaven. We have already received everlasting life, the salvation of our souls, but we await the salvation of our bodies. Those who spiritualize or misplace this resurrection err and overthrow the faith of some (II Timothy 2:18). This will not be a general resurrection; for it is called an “ek (out) resurrection ek (out of) dead ones” (Philippians 3:11), signifying that some of the dead will remain in the grave after this takes place. It would seem to include only the Body of Christ. Paul had the hope of attaining to this out resurrection, not by meritorious effort; for the word “attain” here merely means to come to or arrive at, as is seen from its usage in Acts 26:7 “come”; Acts 25:13 “came unto”; I Corinthians 10:11 “come”; towards which he pressed (Philippians 3:12, 14).
Some teach that the Body of Christ began after God set Israel aside in Acts 28:28, and therefore the hope of resurrection in I Corinthians 15:51, 52; I Thessalonians 4:13 to 17 (given before Acts 28) is not for the Body of Christ. They say our hope is found in Philippians 3:11, 14, 20, 21 and Colossians 3 :4, and claim that these passages teach that our Lord is not coming out of heaven as in I Thessalonians 4, but that we will be called up on high, to meet Christ, not in the air, but in heaven. This theory seems to be contradicted, however, by the very scripture they use. Philippians 3:20 reads: “For our citizenship is in Heaven, from whence (ek ou—out of which, i. e., out of heaven) also we look for (or eagerly await—same word used in Romans 8:19, 23, 25; I Corinthians 1:7; Hebrews 9:28) the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is exactly what the Thessalonians were doing: they were “waiting, for His Son from (ek—out of) heaven” (I Thessalonians 1:10). Christ is now in heaven; we are to wait for Him out of heaven He must descend from heaven as in I Thessalonians 4:16 before Philippians 3:20, 21 can be realized. The day in which the Corinthians and Thessalonian event is to be realized is called “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 1:8), and the one in which the Philippian hope is to be realized is called “the day of Jesus Christ” and the “day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6; Philippians 2:16). If these are two separate events, then language seems useless in making the distinction. We must, of course, recognize the distinction between His two comings or parousias; for there will first be a parousia or coming “for His saints” (I Thessalonians 4:15; II Thessalonians 2:1) in which the Church takes part; and then there will be the parousia “with His saints” (I Thessalonians 3:13). The former is called a Mystery (I Corinthians 15:51); the latter is the subject of prophecy and not a mystery, being the Second Coming of Christ back to the earth. Our hope is not to die and go to be with Christ in heaven, but to be caught up with Him when He next comes out of heaven, and to ever be with Him where ever He is.