Who are the “dead in Christ”?

A post I wrote last week sparked friendly, spirited debate. One word–“gather“– in our post When DO we get to heaven? triggered opposing thought comments.

A few readers believe all the Saints will gather in the sky and wait awhile before they get to enter heaven. Others believe that we’re united with Jesus at the moment we pass from mortality to immortality–like the thief on the cross (Jesus told him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”)

That debate, for me, begs the question, “Who are the dead in Christ?”

A verse in the song, Midnight Cry answers that question for me.

When Jesus steps out
On a cloud and calls God’s children
the dead in 
Christ shall rise
to meet him i
n the air
And then those that remain
Will be quickly changed [the rapture–my note]
At the midnight cry (at the midnight cry)
When Jesus comes again.

Songs are not authoritative biblical proof. But the verse comes from Scripture in 1 Thessalonians that seals the deal for me.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, 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. And so we will be with the Lord forever. [the rapture–my note] Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

We know we can’t justify any of our beliefs by taking scripture out of context. But other passages–Matthew 24 for instance–and Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching on heaven make a pretty strong case for the verse in Midnight Cry and the 1 Thessalonians passages.

What do you think?

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About Steven Sawyer

God blessed me with the gift of writing. Mom told me I wrote paragraphs in second grade when others were learning to write sentences. I spent more than three decades in professional writing gigs. For the past eight years I've combined my passion for writing with my love for the Lord. He and I write a Christ-centered, family-friendly blog to glorify God Monday-thru Friday at https://stevensawyer.wordpress.com/. My wife and I have four grown children and two precious granddaughters we co-parent with their mom. I'm a Galatians 2:20 disciple of Christ seeking to allow Christ to live His life in me, through me, and as me.

1 thought on “Who are the “dead in Christ”?

  1. The Church at Thessalona was upset because they were afraid recent loved ones who had passed away would miss out on the beauty of Christ’s second coming. This verse assures them that every believer will witness the second coming of Christ and that they should no longer be sad…it’s not in support of soul sleep, that is how I have been taught. As in many things I guess we know for sure after we pass.


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