29 April 2011

Question of the Week:
Who are the 'Dead in Christ'?

by Anne Lang Bundy

"Don't be afraid that your life will end;
be afraid that it will never begin."

~ Unknown

Artist of unnamed work: David Morin

Who is 'the dead in Christ'? How can we have eternal life and die, period? (I know some believe that when they die they go into the ground until Christ's return.)
~ Anonymous

These questions refer to the following Scripture concerning the rapture of Christians, from the post "Left Behind":

And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
~ 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NKJV)

Although Christians whose bodies have died are called "dead in Christ," Jesus said that when we are spiritually "born again" by faith—before the death of our physical bodies—we receive eternal life:

"He who believes in the Son has everlasting life ..."
~ John 3:36 (NKJV)

Before spiritual rebirth, the body houses the soul as a "tent." With spiritual birth, the Holy Spirit enters the physical body, which then becomes a "tabernacle" for the Holy Spirit as well.

Although our bodies are still in bondage to physical death (as is all creation), our souls have been set free from death. The death of our bodies is referred to as both death and sleep. Just before the above 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 passage, death is called sleep three times (1 Thessalonians 4:13-15), as in other Scriptures (especially 1 Corinthians 15:35-55).

To be "in Christ" is to receive a new life. Though our souls continue to be housed in a body that is dying, Jesus promises that our souls will not experience death when our body does (John 11:23-27). Peter calmly referred to his death as "putting off his tent."

Even if our attention is on a dying body, the kingdom of God is not something we wait until Heaven to see, but something vibrantly alive within us:

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."
~ Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV)

Next week: What happens to the soul after the body dies?

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What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.

© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.


  1. Thanks Anne, I think a good follow-up question might ask what is the Kingdom of God, how do I get there, and how do I know it when I see it? If you have not answered that already ... :-)

  2. I love thinking of the Kingdom of God as something vibrantly alive w/in!
    ~ Wendy

  3. Rusty ~

    Next week's question, about what happens to our souls after death, will likely lead to a third question about our souls before death, which was implied in the e-mail that contained today's question. I think the kingdom questions will follow very nicely. Thanks for offering them!

  4. Wendy ~

    Paul's exhortation of "Do not quench the Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:19) has everything to do with that Kingdom within—as does, I think, Satan's every attack.

  5. wow! you sure pulled out the stops on this one and have a lot of verses to chase out. faith popped up immediately. i realized as i read thru this that my focus has been and is way center of what it should be. but i'm going to write down these scriptures and take them back to my blog lair and tear into them:)

    one commentary said:

    faith is for this world and sight is for the other world. it is our DUTY, and it will be our interest, to walk by faith...till we live by sight. i've been too focused on the sight and that must change.

    but i'm still curious to know the rest of this!:)

    thanks, Anne! \o/

    btw...some of the scriptures references really stood out! i'm looking forward to ALL of the related follow-ups.

  6. Bud ~

    I really like the thought that if we live by sight our focus must change. I'm glad to hear that you found this so helpful.