Illustration: Ben Johnson easily outdistanced Carl Lewis in the 100 meter dash. I will never forget Johnson’s look of triumphant disdain and Lewis’s look of amazement as they crossed the finish line. Johnson’s victory was short lived. The world’s admiration soon turned into revulsion as we learned that Johnson had cheated: steroids were the cause of his triumph. His was a hollow victory. Today many think that by rejecting Christ they can cheat death and get away with it by entering into eternity. Let us see what God’s Word says in Revelation 20: 12-15 …
In fact Hebrews 9:27 reconfirms Revelation 20 where it says, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”
Introduction: Is your name written in the ‘Lambs Book of Life?’ How can we be sure about our names in the ‘LBL?’
So what do we do to be sure of our names being in the ‘Lambs Book of Life?’ A little while ago we read John 3: 16 ~
But then how can we be sure what waits for a believer in Christ after he / she dies physically?
Let us turn to 1 Thessalonians 4: 13 – 18 ~
What are the eternal promises for a believer?
1. Promise of Reception in Glory [vs. 13 – 14]
(a) "Fall asleep" ~ who have died. Paul doesn’t want those left behind to sorrow as those who have no hope.
(b) In fact there are two receptions for a believer ~ 1st when he / she is gives his / her life to Christ (angels have a banquet in heaven); 2nd at the believer’s arrival in heaven.
(c) The reason they don’t have to sorrow as others without hope is given in verse 14 (read).
• 2 Corinthians 5: 6 – 8 tells us that when we Christians die, we go immediately to be with God. To be "absent from the body-present with the Lord."
• Philippians l: 23 Paul tells us when we depart from this life, we are with Christ.
(e) We need not sorrow then as others who have no hope because the authoritative Word of God promises the believer an immediate reception in glory – “absent from the body present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5: 8)
Illustration: The Greeks had a unique race in their Olympic games. The winner was not the runner who finished first, but the runner who finished first with his torch still lit. Have you competed according to the rules, finishing the race with a godly and abiding faith? Will you finish with your torch lit!
But not only does the Bible promise the Christian an immediate reception in glory but . . .
2. Promise of a Resurrected Body [vs. 15 – 16]
(a) Promise that the bodies of our Christian loved ones will be raised from the dead.
(b) Bible teaches the sleep of the body, not the sleep of the soul.
(c) Bodies of Christians that are sleeping in the graves will one day come forth--be resurrected when Christ comes back. In vs. 16 we see that the souls of the believers (who are now with Christ) will be reunited with their resurrected bodies at Jesus’ coming for His church.
(d) And that body will be a body described in Revelation 21: 3 - 4 as:
• free from pain
• free from sorrow, crying, tears
• free from sin
• free from death
(e) The Christian’s soul goes immediately to the presence of the Lord. The Christian’s body rests in the grave until the day the Lord comes back for His church when it will be resurrected into a glorious body and be reunited with the soul.
Illustration: I was talking to a lady some time ago when she added this striking thought: “America is the only country in the world where people think death is optional.” How true. Much of our current obsession with diet and exercise—as important and necessary as it is—is an attempt to deny the inevitable. But in the end all such attempts are futile. This week and every week thousands of people will die in America. Some will die peacefully, others in fiery collisions, still others in hospital beds, and some will die totally unexpectedly, cut down by a rogue blood clot or sudden heart attack.
3. Promise to be Re-united with our Loved Ones & Christ [v. 17]
(a) Will We See Our Loved Ones Again?
• It Depends on Them - We will only be reunited with our loved ones if they were saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Let us not let sentiment stand in the way of sober biblical truth. Not everyone will go to heaven. Those who in this life had no time for Jesus will find in the next life that he has no time for them.
• It Depends on You - But the answer also depends on you. Where do you stand with Jesus? Is he your Savior and Lord? Have you ever trusted him and him alone for the forgiveness of your sins? Are you born again?
(b) The passage states that the reunion is actually two-fold, first with loved ones and then with the Lord. What a privilege and a time of rejoicing!
The Lord may come back today; if He does the believers who are alive will be reunited with our Christian loved ones in God’s presence.
(Little wonder Paul says that these verses should be used at times like these) for he says, "wherefore comfort one another with these words." those who are left behind can be comforted in knowing the certainties of these verses.
Illustration: My grandfather refused to say “goodbye”; he felt the word was too final. So, when we would drive away after family visits, his farewell ritual was always the same. Standing in front of the green ferns that lined his house, he would wave and call out, “So long”!
As believers, we never have to say “goodbye” to the ones we love, as long as they have placed their trust in Jesus as Savior. The Bible promises that we will see them again.
The apostle Paul said that we should not “sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13), because when Jesus returns, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves and—together with the believers who are still alive—will meet the Lord in the air (vv.15-17). We have confidence that one day in heaven there will be “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” (Rev. 21:4). It’s in that wonderful place that “we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).
Christians have the hope of an eternal reunion with Christ and with believing loved ones who have passed away. That’s why Paul exhorted us to “comfort one another with these words” (v.18). Today, encourage someone with the hope that allows us to say “so long,” instead of “goodbye.”
• V18. "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
• But we should not forget that these promises are conditioned on faith in Christ as Savior who died as our Savior.
• Can you truthfully say that you trusted Jesus Christ to be her Savior from sin, on the authority of God’s Holy Word? Our bodies will one day be resurrected. We’ll be reunited with him and spend eternity together with the Lord.
• The return of Jesus Christ is inevitable, it’s wonderful, and it could happen anytime. It’s like a telephone answering machine that tells you, “I’m not home now, but when I return I will call you.” If the person we have called is reliable, we can expect a return call even though we don’t know whether it will be five minutes or five hours before it comes. Jesus is coming back! It could happen at any moment. Whatever you are going through right now, as painful as it may be, it is only temporary. In a very short while, you and I will be resurrected and reunited with Christ and our loved ones. In the midst of battles with sin, suffering, and Satan, God provides hope in a hopeless world. May we hope in this promise because it is our only hope.
• Many of us enjoy studying Bible prophecy specially the end times … though there is a lot of discrepancy on the timeline of events and I would not even consider that as important as each one of us being prepared for meeting Christ our Lord. Are you really ready to meet Him? Please don’t forget when Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” This passage clearly indicates to us that very few will enter into eternity with Christ. Are you sure you will be one of them?
• So what do I have to do? Well if you haven’t been born again, probably this is another opportunity you get in life to make that commitment with Christ to follow Him and be His disciple.