The Resurrection Is the Gate - Not Death
By E.W. Bullinger - The Rich Man and Lazarus: An Intermediate State? (Excerpt)
So effectually has Satan’s lie succeeded, and accomplished its purpose that, though the Lord Jesus said “I will come again and receive you unto myself”, Christendom says, with one voice, “No! Lord. Thou needest not to come for me: I will die and come to Thee”. Thus the blessed hope of resurrection and the coming of the Lord have been well nigh blotted out from the belief of the Churches; and the promise of the Lord been made of none effect by the ravages of Tradition. Men may write their books, and a Spiritist may entitle on “There is no death”, etc. They may sing words and expressions which are foreign to the Scriptures, about “the Church triumphant”. They may speak of having “passed on”; and about the “home-going”; and “the great beyond”; and the “border-land”; and “beyond the veil”; but against all this we set a special revelation from God, introduced by the prophetic formula, “the Word of the Lord”. “This we say unto you BY THE WORD OF THE LORD that we which are alive and remain shall not precede (R.V.) them which are asleep” (I Thess. 4:15). To agree with Tradition this ought to have been written, “shall not precede them which are already with the Lord”. But this would have made nonsense; and there is nothing of that in the Word of God. There are many things in Scripture difficult; and hard to be understood; there are many Figures of Speech also; but there are no self-contradictory statements such as that would have been. Moreover, we ought to note that this special Divine revelation was given for the express purpose that we might not be ignorant on this subject, as the heathen and Traditionalists were.
This revelation of God’s truth as to the state of the dead is introduced by the noteworthy words in verse 13: “I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep”. Unless, therefore, we know what the Lord has revealed, we must all alike remain “ignorant”. What is revealed here “by the Word of the Lord”, is (a) That as the Lord Jesus was brought again from the dead (Heb. 13:20), so will His people be. “If we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even so (we believe that) them also which sleep in (R.V. marg. through) Jesus will God bring with him” (i.e. bring again from the dead), even as the Lord Jesus died and rose again” (v. 14). (b) That we which are alive and remain till His coming shall not precede those who have fallen on sleep. (c) And therefore they cannot be with the Lord before us (v. 15). (d) The first thing to happen will be their resurrection. They are called “the dead in Christ”. Not the living, but “the dead”, for resurrection concerns only “the dead” (v. 16). (e) The next thing is we, the living, shall be “caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air” (v. 17). Not (as many people put it) to meet our friends, who are supposed to be already there; but to meet “the Lord Himself” (v. 17). (f) Finally, it is revealed that this is the manner in which we shall be “with the Lord”. The word is houtos thus, so, in this manner, and in no other way. Those who do not know the truths here given by special Divine revelation have invented other ways of getting there. They say the “death is the gate of glory”. God says that resurrection and ascension is the gate.