Summary: The subject is the return of Jesus Christ to earth and the resurrection of the dead. I get more questions asked about this passage than most any other passage in the Bible. So I thought we would spend about three sessions talking about this passage. Thi
1 Thess. 4:13 through 5:3 is a passage about a subject that intrigues people. The subject is the return of Jesus Christ to earth and the resurrection of the dead. I get more questions asked about this passage than most any other passage in the Bible. So I thought we would spend about three sessions talking about this passage so at least this Wednesday night group might have a better understanding and a clearer picture of the RAPTURE. Tonight we will introduce ourselves to the passage by looking at verses 13-15 in 1 Thessalonians 4.
READ v. 13. The concern of the believers at Thessalonica involved dead believers. Would their loved ones who had died share in the resurrection when Christ returned to earth? Remember, the church at Thessalonica had just been founded and was a brand new church. The church was being bitterly persecuted, some of the believers were dying, maybe some were being martyred and Christ hadn’t yet returned.
They were eagerly looking for that hope of the appearing of Jesus Christ. Would believers be resurrected when Christ returned? The gospel message tells us that Jesus is returning to earth to receive believers unto Himself. Here’s what we know:
When Jesus returns to earth, we know:
1. That living believers will be lifted up to meet Christ in the air.
2. That all the glory, majesty, and power of God will be displayed in the heavens in the most spectacular scene imaginable.
3. That the most glorious union and fellowship among living believers will take place around Christ.
4. That believers who are lifted up will experience the most wonderful transformation and be given bodies that are perfected forever.
5. That the world of unbelievers who are left here on earth will witness the most spectacular event ever seen by man.
So these are things that the Bible spells out for us. But what about our loved ones who have already died? What will happen to them? Will they have a part in the spectacular return of Jesus to earth? Will they have the privilege of sharing in the majestic power and in the reunion of living believers with Christ?
And how about their bodies? We know that believers’ bodies will be transformed. They will never lie in the ground and deteriorate.
But what about the bodies of our loved ones who have already decayed and in some cases are scattered over the world due to war, disease, accident, and having been maimed?
What about those who have been cremated?
Are they going to share in the glorious resurrection and transformation when Christ returns?
The concerns in the minds of the Thessalonians are some of the same concerns that we have today. They were asking questions about the resurrection and the Lord’s return out of concern. Unfortunately, this is not the case of many people. They want to know about the end time out of curiosity, not out of concern.
Paul says two things to those who are concerned over the resurrection of dead believers when Christ returns.
1. Don’t be ignorant about the resurrection. Study and grasp what God teaches and be comforted and challenged in the glorious hope He gives.
2. Don’t grieve excessively over loved ones who die before Christ returns. We are bound to experience some sorrow and grief, but we are not to suffer grief like unbelievers who have no hope. They have reason to suffer, but not us. We have hope.
There is no hope for the unbelievers of the world. But the believer has a glorious hope. So we aren’t to grieve excessively at the death of loved ones. There is no need, because they will arise to meet Jesus.
READ v. 14-15. There are three proofs given here that departed believers will return with Christ.
1. Departed believers are with Christ; they are living with Him face to face. Note the words “with Jesus” in v. 14. God will bring departed believers with Jesus when He returns. Their souls are “with Him” right now. We don’t have to wonder where they are. When they died, they went immediately to be with the Lord in paradise or heaven, and they will never be separated from the Lord. So when He returns to earth, He will bring all departed believers with Him.
The words “Asleep in him” means those who sleep in Jesus. “Asleep” is simply a soft word used by believers to describe their departure from this world. It’s a picture of resting from the trials and suffering of this world. These are the ones that God will bring with Him when He returns to earth.
2. Proof two: the death and resurrection of Jesus proves that departed believers will return to earth with God. That means that if we believe in Jesus Christ we never have to die because He has already died for us. It means that we will arise from the dead even as He arose. If we believe in Jesus Christ, when we depart this world, we go to be with him; and when He returns, we will return with Him.