Summary: This is the final sermon in our series on 1st Thessalonians and in this sermon we discuss the comfort we have at the Lords 2nd Coming
The Comfort of the Coming King
Text: 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18
By: Ken McKinley
This is one of those passages we often hear at funerals used to comfort those who have lost loved ones. In-fact Paul writes to the Thessalonians and tells them to use this teaching to comfort one another. So most likely; when Timothy had come to check up on them they sent him back to Paul with a whole slew of questions, and one of those questions had to do with Christians who had died. We can tell by Paul’s response what their question probably was. “What happens to those who die before Christ returns?” So Paul says, “We don’t want you to be ignorant about this…” Now that word ignorant isn’t used as an insult like it sometimes is today. I am ignorant when it comes to doing calculus, or trigonometry, or basically any math beyond simple algebra. I just don’t know it. Well it’s kind of the same with the Thessalonians, they just didn’t know what happened to their brothers and sisters in Christ who had already died. They didn’t know what was going to happen. And again from Paul’s reply we can tell that they were worried that those who had died might miss out on glorification of the body at the Lord’s return. So Paul tells them that when Jesus comes again, He will be bringing those who have already passed away, with Him.
Most of the time when we’re thinking about eschatology, we’re thinking about the end times; the end of the age, when Jesus returns, but much of eschatology also has to do with our end, the end of life. So the first part of this Paul is telling the Thessalonians that those who have died in Christ will return with Christ when He comes again. Turn with me to 2nd Corinthians 5:1-8 (Read). Now this passage, as well as our text in 1st Thessalonians, as well as a few other places, give us our understanding of what happens to a Christian when they die. They go to be with the Lord.
And I’ll explain it to you quickly because I want to get to the rest of our text in the time we have. When a Christian dies, they immediately go to heaven to be with the Lord. They remain in heaven until the Lord returns at His 2nd coming. That’s often called the intermediate state. So when Jesus comes again, these saints that have gone on before us, come with Him, and their bodies are resurrected and made glorified. Also at this time… or just a few seconds after, we who are alive and remain will be caught up into the air to meet Jesus and these saints. This is called the rapture, and that’s the thing that it seems most Christians are interested in. The key is to not get too preoccupied with it. It’s good that believers want to be with the Lord. In-fact the Bible says all of creation is groaning for that final day of redemption; so we have this longing in us, but there is a lot of work yet to be done here on earth. So we have to occupy until the Lord returns and do what we can while we’re here. But Paul does address the “rapture” here in our text so we’re going to look at it.
The word “rapture” isn’t actually used. It comes from the Latin term that was used to translate the Greek phrase “caught up.” Now since the 70’s there have been books written and movies made about the rapture, and what happens to the people who are “left behind,” I vaguely remember watching parts of one of those movies called “A Thief in the Night.” It was a bad B-Movie. The acting was bad, the film quality was bad, and it was just… hokey.
Then I watched the first “Left Behind” movie when it came out, and I felt pretty much the same way I did watching “A Thief in the Night.” I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but it was just kind of silly. Hundreds of millions of people disappear and no one knows exactly why, and then this world leader appears on the scene, makes a peace treaty with Israel for 7 years and then 3 and ½ years into it; he breaks his treaty and becomes this really bad dude. But meanwhile a few people figure out that God is real and that if they want to make it to heaven then they have to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before the 7 years are up, because then its too late, wile simultaneously avoiding this world leader who is actually the anti-Christ. And that’s how those movies work.
But this isn’t exactly how Paul describes the rapture here is it?