Summary: 4th in the series "Left Behind: 1 & 2 Thessalonians."
1 Thes 4:13-18
Illustration: Thanks for the Memos from NPR’s show “What do You Know.” Usually these memos contain quite a bit of confusion (http://www.notmuch.com/Features/Memos for examples)
The occaision of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is a bit of confusion about the Lord’s return—they thought their loved ones missed it. Paul Writes to set them straight and to ease their grief “I don’t want you to be ignorant or to grieve like those who have no hope”
In this, one of the clearest passages about exactly what happens at the Lord’s coming there are four important points made
1. The Return
v 16a For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God,
Himself—not a representative, but He himself will come for us
With a Shout—not hidden but for everyone to see his victory.
His first coming was clothed in weakness, this one will be in power, to initiate the conclusion of time as we know it. Since his first coming there have been many advances, but it has also been a time of decline.
Studdert Kennedy, the Army chaplain and poet wrote during the first world war: "After two thousand years of saying Mass, we’ve got as far as poison gas!"
But God has a plan to finish all of that with a magnificent finale
Illustration: Fireworks at Lake Michigan.
Jesus’ finale will leave no mistake. What will happen at his return?
2. The Resurrection
16 b. …and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Here was real hope for the relations and friends of those who have died as Christians. They weren’t to miss out. In fact they were getting priority treatment in the order of events in the Second Coming. The apostle had already told his readers that since the Christ who comes is He who had "died and rose again," so those who had died in Him would now rise with Him. Paul tells us that: "God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." Christ and His people belong to each other inseparably and forever. Their spirits will be joined to their resurrected bodies, now free from the frailties and pains of their earthly existence. None of us know if our earthly life will end before Christ comes again, but if that’s the case, we have the wonderful assurance that Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth: "The dead will be raised imperishable … for the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality" (1 Cor 15:52,53).
These bodies believe it or not were meant for eternity. But they’ll have to be refitted!
For those who have trusted in Jesus, To be absent…is to be present, Spiritually we go to be with Jesus when we die. But there is coming a day when our salvation is complete, when these bodies are transformed—glorified. And that will happen first for those who have already died and been buried
In one of his lighter moments, Benjamin Franklin penned his own epitaph. He didn’t profess to be a born-again Christian, but it seems he must have been influenced by Paul’s teaching of the resurrection of the body. Here’s what he wrote: The Body of B. Franklin, Printer Like the Cover of an old Book Its contents torn out, And stript of its Lettering and Guilding, Lies here, Food for Worms, But the Work shall not be wholly lost: For it will, as he believ’d, Appear once more In a new & more perfect Edition, Corrected and amended by the Author
Christs coming will be a time of ressurection
3. The Rapture
17After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
This word comes from Latin and it simply means to be taken away/transported. Those who have trusted Jesus and are still alive and remain until his coming will join those who have been resurrected, and their bodies too will be transformed.
Notice though that there is a qualifier for both those who have died and those who remain. It is only those who are “In Christ’ Who are part of this event.
Like the Passover in Egypt, looking for the blood signifying those who heeded the warning. Only those who have heeded the lord’s warning and have put their trust in the blood that Christ shed will be chosen..
Often people find this topic frightening, but that is the last thing it is meant to be…
4. The Reassurance
18Therefore encourage each other with these words.
This is the comfort—our goodbyes to those who have died in Christ are not goodbyes at all but instead as the Germans say “Auf Weidesehen” Until we see you again.
This is why we do not grieve as those who have no hope—we grieve instead as those who have a certain hope.