9 July, 2006 A.M.
Tree Of Life Wesleyan Church
Send in the Clouds!
1 Thes. 4:16-17
When Arkansas Senator David Pryor was a teenager he worked as a Congressional page. He loved the job so much he vowed to return someday as a member of Congress. To reinforce his goal, he hid a dime in a crack behind a statue in the Capitol, with the intention of retrieving it when he succeeded. Fifteen years later, as a newly elected member of the House of Representatives, he did just that. Pryor said this proves two things. One, that dreams in youth should never be underestimated, and two, that they don't clean the Capitol very much.
A Christian doctor was trying to lead his office boy to accept Christ as his personal Savior. Late one afternoon he explained the second coming -- how the doctor would be caught up while those who were unsaved would be left for judgment. The doctor said, "John, when the Lord comes, you may have my house." The boy looked surprised. "Yes, you may have my furniture, my car, and all my money." The lad gasped with astonishment. "Thanks."
Then he went home and later to bed. But he couldn't sleep. He began to think, "If the doctor goes to meet Jesus, what will I do with his house, his car, his money? Where will I be?" The next morning he could hardly wait to ask the doctor how he might be ready for Christ's coming.
As we sit here this morning there are countless numbers who do not know Jesus and for many their lives may end before they get that chance. They do not understand that Jesus is coming back to claim His own. We tend to think we have all the time in the world to accept His offer of everlasting life -- but really -- we don't have much time at all. I want you to spend time this week in prayer for our outreach events and not just this week, we need to make it a priority, to set aside a specific amount of time each day – be it five minutes or an hour – to pray for those we are going to touch -- for those lives that will be seeing Jesus through us for the first time because, time is running out! You see, Jesus is coming; He is going to collect and keep those that call Him Lord.
1 Thes. 4:16 says, "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven." No one else is going to come for us, only Jesus. There is no way that any angel or ruler could accomplish this -- Paul tells us that Jesus and no other will return for His own, including the dead who belong to Him. Paul gives us three phrases to describe the scene, especially the sound-effects: First he says, There is a loud command; the term that is used here is for the charioteer urging his horses or a ship's captain shouting to the rowers; it is thunderous and compelling.
Missionary Gregory Fisher writes: "What will he say when he shouts?" The question took me by surprise. I had already found that West African Bible College Students can ask some of the most penetrating questions about minute details of Scripture. "Reverend, 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says that Christ will descend from heaven with a loud command. I would like to know what that command will be." I wanted to leave the question unanswered, to tell him that we
must not go past what Scripture has revealed, but my mind wandered to an encounter I had earlier in the day with a refugee from the Liberian civil war. The man, a high school principal, told me how he was apprehended by a two-man death squad. After several hours of terror, as the men described how they would torture and kill him, he narrowly escaped. After hiding in the bush for two days, he was able to find his family and escape to a neighboring country. The escape cost him dearly: two of his children lost their lives. The stark cruelty unleashed on an unsuspecting, undeserving population had touched me deeply. I also saw flashbacks of the beggars that I pass each morning on my way to the office. Every day I see how poverty destroys dignity, robs men of the best of what it means to be human, and sometimes substitutes the worst of what it means to be an animal. I am haunted by the vacant eyes of people who have lost all hope. "Reverend, you have not given me an answer. What will he say?" The question hadn't
gone away. " ' Enough,' " I said "He will shout, 'Enough!' when he returns." A look of surprise opened the face of the student. "What do you mean, 'enough'?" "Enough suffering. Enough starvation. Enough terror. Enough death. Enough indignity. Enough lives trapped in hopelessness. Enough sickness and disease. Enough time. Enough!
Really it doesn’t make any difference what He will say but that we understand that it will be loud -- all mankind will be able to hear it. Paul also tells that we will hear the voice of the archangel -- there is no specific archangel mentioned but all we need to understand is that it will have the same awesome quality as the loud command, and then there is the trumpet call of God. The three phrases may all refer to the same sound with the voice and the trumpet as the means by which the command is issued. In any case, it certainly does not seem to describe a "secret rapture." The whole scene is awe-inspiring and full of grandeur. So Jesus is coming and He’s letting everyone know about it, and when He comes He is going to collect all those that belong to Him.
So, first we have this powerful command, this voice of the archangel announcing that Jesus is returning along with that blast from God’s trumpet – and if that wasn’t enough to people to take note now we have those who have lived and died as Christians, rising to meet Jesus in the air. After those great and awesome sounds that usher Christ’s return, the saints that have gone on before, those that lived their lives in such a way that others came to know the love of God through them leave the grave. Now we’re not talking about zombies or dead bodies walking around – those folks aren’t going to want to be walking around when they can meet their Savior in the air – then Paul says, that those who are currently living the Christian life, will be caught up together to be with those who HAD been deceased. The Greek verb that is used for "caught up" is a strong one; it could be translated "snatched up" suddenly and powerfully. The same verb describes the Roman soldiers rescuing Paul from the near riot in the Jewish council chamber; or Philip's being carried away after the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. There is no way we can begin to imagine what Paul is talking about -- each one of us has visions of what is going to happen -- let's just say -- its going to happen! Jesus is coming back to call us home! The book of Mark tells us that Jesus is going to send his angels to gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. -- What a day that will be -- can you even begin to imagine the numbers that will be there? Gathered from all the areas of the world at the same time.
John Stott offers helpful comments: "We know from Jesus himself that his coming will be personal, visible and glorious, but we also know that it will not be local (There he is! Here he is!) but universal (like the lightning which flashes and lights the sky from one end to the other). Everyone will see it at the same time! We are going to meet Him in the air! There have been those that have argued as to why we are going to meet Him in the air. There are some that feel it is so He can take us to heaven and then there are those that feel is it so we can accompany Jesus back to earth. You see the word for "meet" may shed some light. The Greek means, more literally, "for a meeting," and the
word which occurs here was often used to describe a delegation of local leaders going to meet a distinguished visitor to honor him by escorting him back to the city. To me it make no difference where I am escorting Jesus -- to heaven or back to earth -- only that I am escorting Him -- shouting Hosanna! Blessed is the King of kings and the Lord of lords!
In any case whether we go with Him back to heaven or back to earth, the important thing is -- we are with Him and will be forever.
So we will be with the Lord forever! For many they think this is the end but it is only the beginning ---- the beginning of life ---- Dan. tells us in the 7th chapter that "He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."
Once He has come to claim us we will never be in need or want again, no sorrow will ever cause a tear to wet the eye again. Is this the kind of life you want? Or would you rather me describe the kind of life you can have without Jesus? If this is the life you want you need to accept His offer of life and forgiveness -- there is no other way around it -- we must come to God through the Son. Are you ready for the loud trumpet call of God? Are you ready to tell your
friends and loved ones about the great gift of life that Jesus is giving?
16 Aug. 1998
Miles City Wesleyan Church
Miles City MT