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Genuine Christianity - Studies in 1 Thessalonians - 11

A Living Hope

We continue our study of 1 Thessalonians.  Today we're looking at chapter 4 verses 13 to 18.  This passage deals with the subject of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This truth wasn't given to us as a issue to debate.  It was given to comfort us in our trials, and sanctify us in our lives.  It's given for a practical purpose.  Some argue over the finer details of the events leading up to and including the second coming

If the doctrine doesn't make you more holy in your daily living then you've missed the whole point of it.  Charles Spurgeon, a well known preacher once said, "The fact that

Jesus Christ is to come again is not a reason for star gazing, but for working in the power of the Holy Ghost!".  God has given us this passage for one reason-to encourage believers.  Paul says in verse 18, "Therefore encourage each other with these words". 

When Paul had been with the Thessalonians he had preached about the return of Jesus Christ.  As time passed they saw their generation dying off.  Some died because of age, some because of illness or an accident.  The believers were troubled.  They wondered whether their dead relatives and friends would miss out on the coming of the

Lord because they were no longer alive.  Paul assures them that saved loved ones who have gone to the grave wont miss anything.  Do you struggle with these sorts of questions?  Do you ask, "Where are they?  Is it goodbye forever to saved loved ones never to be seen again?" These are the issues dealt with in this passage.  We do not believe that death is the end.  We do not accept that when we die everything is over.  The basis of the Christians hope is the resurrection of Jesus Christ

Paul says in verse 14, "We believe that Jesus died and rose again".  On the strength of that the resurrection of believers will happen.  We read in verse 14, "So we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him."   Sleep is a nice term to use of believers who have died.  In a sense everyone who dies may be said to be asleep because the body is motionless.  In a special way sleep presupposes waking.  One day we will awake in the grave and rise. 

The fulfilment of our hope is the return of Jesus Christ.  We read in verse 16, "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of an Archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first" Perhaps they are being honoured in experiencing death, burial and resurrection like Jesus himself.  What we do know is that there will be an earth- shattering summons and the graves will open and give up their dead. 

This summons is pictured in three ways: a shout, a voice and a trumpet.  This may not be three separate sounds but the picture of an overwhelming irresistible call to resurrection.  A Puritan called Thomas Watson said, "We are more likely to rise out of our graves than out of our beds!  "

In chapter 3 verse 13 Paul says, "Our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones".  In chapter 4 verses l6 and 17 he says, "The dead in Christ shall rise first, we will be caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air".  How do we reconcile Christ coming with his people yet his people going to meet him in the air?  Can the dead in Christ come with him and at the same time go to meet him?  The answer is yes when you bear in mind that you have two natures - a physical nature and a spiritual nature.  At death the body returns to dust in the grave where it sleeps.  Your spirit goes to heaven to consciously enjoy fellowship with the Lord.  When the trumpet sounds Christ brings with him the disembodied spirits of his people.  He raises your body from the ground.  This comes to meet him.  The spirit and body are fused together and form the immortal body God has promised us.  This happens in the twinkling of an eye.  Don't worry God has got it all worked out!  No problem will arise concerning your eternal future

Another problem that the Thessalonians had about the second coming was, what happens to those who have not died when the Lord appears?  The answer is in verse 17: "We who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them to meet the Lord in the air".  The words 'caught up' translate a Greek word meaning 'to seize with the idea of suddenness'.  Christ will sweep us off our feet!  He will seize us and lift us up to be with him.  As the gospel song says, "People from every nation will lose their gravitation".

The words 'meet the Lord' translate a Greek word that was used of an official visit of a dignitary, or the return of a conquering hero.  It was the custom that as the dignitary approached the city the leading citizens would go out to meet him, and join him in the final stage of his journey and escort him back.  In the eyes of the world we are insignificant and Christ is despised.  In reality we are the leading citizens of heaven, and Christ is the conquering Saviour.  We join him in his triumph and glory.  Those loved ones who have already died in Christ will be there.  We'll be "caught up with them".  There is going to be a great reunion with saved family and friends.  Best of all we will see the Saviour.  Verse 17 says, "And so we will be with the lord forever" As lovely as it is to be reunited with saved loved ones who have gone on before, being with the Lord makes heaven what it is.  Verse 17 also tells us, "We ...  meet the Lord in the air". 

In Ephesians chapter2 verse 2 we have a description of Satan.  We read he is, "The ruler of the Kingdom of the air".  Satan may hinder us sometimes but he will not hinder this great meeting.  Christ displays his victory right in Satan's own territory! 

I trust that this great truth that Christ is coming again thrills your soul.  It should change your life and behaviour.  You need to be ready for his appearing.  We read in 1 John chapter 3 verse 3, "Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure". 

Click here for part 12.