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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18-Ready to Go

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comfort in Christ's coming

Notes & Transcripts
Are you ready to go? Are you ready for the day that will come when all those who believe will be caught up into heaven? The day is coming. Paul was waiting for the day. The early church was waiting. We should be waiting too.
Goal: To challenge the people to be prepared and to help others prepare for Christ’s return.
Are you ready for the Rapture? Are you ready for the day that will come when all those who believe will be caught up into heaven? The day is coming. Paul was waiting for the day. The early church was waiting. We should be waiting too.
Does this seem a bit shocking to you? For the most part, Christian Reformed people have been taught in one way or another that the rapture proposed by dispensationalist Christians is true. Yet that hasn’t stopped us from being curious. We’ve read the “Left Behind Series” by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. I remember seeing Hal Lindsey’s book, “The Late Great Planet Earth” promoted in lots of Christian bookstores.
. Perhaps you have heard some television preacher with charts paired along with current news reports, trying to make connections between current events and biblical prophecy—claiming that they have it figured out.
Perhaps you have heard some television preacher with charts paired along with current news reports, trying to make connections between current events and biblical prophecy—claiming that they have it figured out.
We might read those books or watch those because we’re curious and we have questions. They might not have all the answers, but at least their trying. Shouldn’t we have expectations about how Jesus is coming back again and the part we play in it?
We wonder what God is telling us through Paul. The most important thing is what Paul tells us in vs. 13
1 Thessalonians 4:13 NIV
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
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Like the Thessalonians, we’re waiting for Jesus to return. Many have died waiting. Some times, when we wait a long time, we begin to doubt or second guess ourselves. Is this really going to happen? Is Jesus coming again? Did he forget about us? No. Paul writes the Thessalonians to remind them about God’s plan and to give them hope.
. Is what is portrayed by these individuals what we believe? Maybe you have wondered after being exposed to some of this literature—but didn’t know where to go with your questions. One sermon can’t begin to answer them all, but hopefully, a sermon can steer us in a direction that honors God’s Word to us.
Let’s put this whole discussion of the Rapture in the context of taking a trip. As Christians, we believe and have faith that this life is not our final destination. Life is a journey—serving the purpose God calls us to serve—but ultimately our goal is our eternal, heavenly home.
Along the way of the trip, there are things that are central to our journey. First, we need a destination, we’ve already discussed this—we believe Heaven and our reunion with Christ is our final destination. Secondly, we need to talk about our method of transportation—how are we going to arrive at our final destination? Finally, what do we take along—what is our luggage—for lack of a better term. What we bring along with us and prepare beforehand—this stuff will help us enjoy the trip to the fullest.
Lets think of the destination. We prepare ourselves according to our destination—directions, mode of travel, clothes to pack, etc. Our destination is to be before the throne of God in heaven. How do we get there? What is our map? Jesus Christ shows us the way. God’s Word to us in the Bible is our map. What do we pack? We spend our lives preparing for the journey. What we pack can’t be contained in a literal suitcase—our lives are to be filled with God’s Word, led by His Spirit, disciplining ourselves to live a life of gratitude and service.
When Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, he had some concern of where they were in the journey. He had spent some time with them, witnessing and ministering to them, and a church had been started. Paul had left for other places to serve, but had always intended to go back. Paul says that Satan had prevented him from returning—whether it was imprisonment, other obligations, or reasons not explicitly explained to us—in his absence, Paul wanted to write the Thessalonians to encourage them in their faith. Not only that, but he wanted to assure them of their final destination.
What we gather from Paul’s letter is that the Thessalonians, as young Christians weren’t sure about what to expect when Jesus came again. In the pagan religions that they followed before they came to Christ—there was no expectation of the after life or if there was an expectation, it was very vague and general.
At the time of the letter, we can be fairly certain that Paul and the rest of the early church had a true expectation that Jesus would return any day. Many believed that they would not experience death before Christ returned. With that in mind, it is obvious from the text, that some of the Thessalonian Christians had some concern about what would happen to those who believed in Jesus but had already died. They were unsure about the resurrection of the dead and how and when that would occur. Maybe they were afraid to die, fearing that they would miss it.
In the context of the trip, the Thessalonians knew what their destination was to be, but they were a little confused about their transportation. How do we achieve our goal for a life in Christ?
We could ask the same questions of ourselves—we have some idea of where we are going, but do we know the directions we are to take or how we’re going to get there? How are we going to get into Jesus’ presence?
1 Thessalonians 4:13 NIV
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:13
We don’t want to be ignorant either. There are many people who either journey through this life in ignorance—either unaware of their final destination, or pretending they don’t know where it is. They don’t know or sometimes choose to ignore Jesus.
“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.” We don’t want to be ignorant either. There are many people who either journey through this life in ignorance—either unaware of their final destination, or pretending they don’t know where it is. To be honest, I think we all journey with levels of ignorance from time to time.
Many Christians, including ourselves sometimes, often live as though we don’t know where we are going. We are tempted to do the bare minimum, if anything at all to arrive at our destination. We focus on goals for family, career, and comfort—as if they are the goal. We are tempted to pack our lives with the stuff that doesn’t lead us to the destination we desire as if that’s our goal. We pack our lives like the person who packs their heavy coat and ski gear for a trip to a tropical destination. We want everything, and want to deny ourselves nothing.
Sometimes we journey through this life as if this life is the final goal. In the end, as death stands before us, if this is all there is, then why bother taking the trip? As Christians, Paul reminds the Thessalonians and ourselves where our final destination lies—where we truly hope to go. The destination is clear when we believe, have faith, and seek God’s guidance in our lives through His Word and Spirit.
So if Jesus and eternity are our destination, how do we get there? What is our transportation? Simply put, our lives may be a journey, but when the day comes that Christ appears in the clouds, He will provide the final transportation. We will go to meet him.
God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep (vs. 14).
1 Thessalonians 4:14 NIV
For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
In vs. 15, Paul explains that those who have died will not be forgotten and left behind—they will join those who are still alive and meet Jesus face to face.
What will happen on that day? What does the text say? Let’s list the details from today’s text:
1. The Lord Himself will come down—there isn’t much dispute about this detail. (vs. 16)
2. Jesus will call out in a loud voice and with the archangel and a loud trumpet blast, he will command the dead to rise. It will be anything but silent—nowhere will it say that the believers will just “poof!” disappear. I think of the bumper stickers saying, “Caution: In case of rapture this vehicle will be without operator.” True, but it’s not going to be mystery why this vehicle will be empty; it will need no explanation. The text says nothing of a “secret” rapture. When Christ comes, he comes for good and everyone will know it. The trumpet will sound. The message of Paul is to bring hope, not confusion.
3. With the command, the dead will rise,—it is as vs. 15 says, “not only for those who are alive, but those who are asleep.” and we will be “snatched up” or “caught up” into the sky to meet Christ. How will that look? Amazing, undoubtedly, but unexplainable.
4. We then will go out to meet Jesus. The original language uses the word ἁρπαγησόμεθα-a rare word in the N.T. It denotes a delegation going out to meet an esteemed or honored guest and traveling with Him to the intended destination. One example of this comes from the Parable of the Ten Virgins, found in
Matthew 25:6 NIV
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
: “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ The second example is from —When Paul arrives at Rome, Luke writes: “The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged.” We will Join Jesus and go back with Him to heaven, or to escort back to earth—all is renewed—the New Heaven and the New Earth Why would Jesus return again as triumphant king and then leave again? What we are reading about is Judgment Day. The end of times.
The second example is from . When Paul arrives at Rome, Luke writes:
Acts 28:15 NIV
The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged.
Acts 28:15 NIV
The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged.
We will Join Jesus and go back with Him to heaven, or to escort him back to earth—where all will be renewed—the New Heaven and the New Earth. It will be the judgment day, the beginning of eternity.
—When Paul arrives at Rome, Luke writes: “The brothers there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged.” We will Join Jesus and go back with Him to heaven, or to escort back to earth—all is renewed—the New Heaven and the New Earth Why would Jesus return again as triumphant king and then leave again? What we are reading about is Judgment Day. The end of times.
We will Join Jesus and go back with Him to heaven, or to escort him back to earth—where all will be renewed—the New Heaven and the New Earth. It will be the judgment day, the beginning of eternity.
When will this happen? For those who spend all their time trying to map out the calendar for Christ’s return—Paul follows with the words that Jesus comes as a thief. He isn’t going to make an announcement. But once he returns, any resemblance to silence will disappear. He will announce himself with a loud command and the sounding of trumpets.
These words to the Thessalonians were not to be used as an insider’s guide to what sequence the Last Days will occur. These are, as Paul says, words of comfort.
1 Thessalonians 4:18 NIV
Therefore encourage one another with these words.
When is Jesus coming? Anytime. Are we ready for the trip? Are we packed? We know our destination—not just Heaven, but our reunion with Jesus. We know our transportation. Jesus Christ will lead us. So what are we to pack? What is our luggage?
Paul writes:
Ephesians 6:11 NIV
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
Ephesians 6:11
Dress yourselves with truth, righteousness, rooted in the Good News of the Gospel, and growing in faith, salvation, and God’s Word. Don’t pack them away to use later. Wear them. Live them.
Like the Thessalonians, we are reminded that as we prepare for our journey to Christ’s presence, as we wait, it will not be easy. Satan wants to discourage us, distract us, make us afraid, or make us forget. Satan can even get us more concerned about how Jesus is coming back so that we forget the comfort that he is coming back.
Some who spend a lot of time thinking about the Rapture believe that its purpose is to spare Christians who are still living the pain of persecution and tribulation.
This is appealing to those of us who have known little persecution at all—people like us. What about those who are enduring persecution today—what about the Christians in the Sudan, Iraq, and Syria. There are places in those countries where Christianity can be traced back to the initial work of the disciples, and now, those places have lost almost all Christian influence—because Christians have either been fled or been killed. In every country.
When Christ comes again, he will take all who believe and believed in Him—those still alive and those who have died in Christ and for Christ. Take comfort in this knowledge that when the day comes that we are caught up—we know our destination, Christ has been our transportation, and we have packed well for the journey, transformed into righteousness. Our journey will have been completed and we will have arrived at our final destination.
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