The Coming of the Lord
1 Thess. 4:13-18
With the present world situation regarding the Corona Virus (Covid 19), people all over the world, for fear of dying suddenly became aware about God. Unexpectedly, people regardless of any religious affiliation are praying and calling upon the name of their God. Lots are becoming receptive to the Gospel and though churches are closed because of the lockdown, Sundays, and middle of the week worship service continues with lots of people in the internet watching just to hear the message.
The Rapture is becoming more and more popular issue not only for Christians but also for unbelievers now. Hollywood Christianity with its corrupted and half-truth presentation of the Biblical events in the Old Testament and New Testament is creating an impact to lots of people having different beliefs. Famous actors playing the role of major Bible character makes people imagine things and do a lot of speculations. Social media like you tube, face book, etc., are filled with illustrations as well as lessons and about this controversial topic. This morning we will see how the Word of God tells us about this futuristic event.
I. Their Sorrow (1 Thess. 4:13-14)
A. The Problem. Paul said, But I would not have you to be ignorant… (1 Thess. 4:13) The word ignorant means to be “uninformed or lacking knowledge.” It means to be without the proper information. Paul is writing to give them information concerning the rapture. At that time Christians don’t really knows the details of Christ’s return.
B. The death of their loved ones. Their problem and gloom were concerning them which are asleep. (1 Thess. 4:13). The word asleep speaks of the dead. Jesus referred to both Dorcas and Lazarus as being asleep—the sleep of death. (Luke 8:52, John 11:11). This does not imply soul sleep as being taught by the cults. The body is all that goes to the grave. Upon death the soul immediately goes to either Heaven or Hell.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lifts up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Luke 16:22-23) Immediately at death the rich man went to Hell. He didn’t go to Hell because he was rich, but because he died unprepared. The beggar was taken by the angels into Abraham’s bosom—a place of rest and comfort. Paul said, For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better. (Philippians 1:23)
C. Their Sorrow. Paul admonished them that they sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (1 Thess. 4:13) The Thessalonian believers doesn’t know the doctrine of the rapture. So, they were they were sorrowing over the loss of loved ones as if there were no hope for them. It is no sin to sorrow and even weep at the death of a loved one. The unbelievers, they have no hope, but we have the blessed hope. It is non-other than the rapture of the saints at the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
D. Paul tells them. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. (1 Thess. 4:14). Paul assures them that their loved ones were not in the grave. Their bodies had been buried, but their souls
were with the Lord in Heaven. Paul’s assurance was that them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. Here indeed is a wonderful promise. Those who die before the rapture will come back with Christ in the rapture.
The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are among the best-attested facts of history. Since Christians know these events took place, they can be equally certain, Paul said, that the souls of believers who have died will return with Christ when He comes for His living saints. The prophecy of the Rapture is as sure to be fulfilled as the prophecies of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Illustration 1: “You May Have My Home, John”
A Christian doctor in London wanted to arouse his page boy as to the salvation of his soul. One night the doctor explained to him that “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout” (1 Thess. 4:16). He ended the recital by saying, “When the Lord comes, you may have my home, John.” The boy was surprised. “And my car.” John was more surprised. “And my furniture, and my money.” The boy could only gasp, “Thanks.” Alone in bed he began to think: “If the doctor goes to heaven, what will I do with his house and car and all the rest? Where will I be?” He woke up the doctor and explained his problem, and before morning he was also ready.
Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times.
II. The Revelation (1 Thess. 4:15)
A. The revelation of this resurrection came from Jesus Christ Himself. How it came to Paul is not known, but perhaps it was a direct revelation. Not only will the souls of the dead in Christ return with Him (v. 14), but their bodies will also be resurrected at His coming. The bodies of dead Christians will be resurrected immediately before living Christians are conveyed upward.
B. Clearly Paul believed that he and his Thessalonian readers might well be alive when the Lord returned. He believed that the Rapture was imminent, that it could take place at any moment (1 Cor. 7:29, “the time is short”; Phil 4:5, “The Lord is near”). And this truth of imminency brought comfort (1 Thess. 4:18).
III. The Return (1 Thess. 4:16)
A. The great shout
1. We do not know whether the voice and the trumpet will be heard and distinguish by others than the “dead in Christ” and the “living saints”. We know however that the dead in Christ shall hear the sound, for it will be “intensely penetrating”.
2. There will be no graves so deep, no catacombs so rock covered, no mausoleums so thick, but the sound shall reach their depths and the dead in Christ shall hear the command for them to rise.
3. The shout is the “shout of triumph” over death (1 Cor. 15:54-57) manifested in the raising of the dead and the instantaneous glorification of the living saints who will never taste physical death.
4. Or it may be a command just like when the Lord raised Lazarus
B. The great trumpet
In at least three biblical passages concerning the rapture, a trumpet is mentioned (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 4:1). How are we to understand this?
Dr. Dwight Pentecost writes, “The phrase ‘the trump of God’ is significant, for in the Old Testament the trumpet was used for two things—to summon to battle and to summon to worship.” (Dwight Pentecost, Prophecy for Today, p. 30)
1. To angels the trumpet blast will mean “Prepare for battle!” According to various New Testament passages on. Jn. 14:30; Eph. 6:12; 1 Jn. 5:19) this present world lies in the hands of the evil one, the devil, and the very atmosphere is filled with his wicked power and presence. Satan (Eph. 2:2) will obviously resist believers being caught up through his domain and becoming freed from his wicked worldly system. Remember he is called “prince of the power of the air? Therefore, the trumpet commands the angels, “Prepare for battle! Clear the way for the catching up of those resurrected bodies and those living believers!”
2. To all believers the trumpet blast will mean “Prepare to worship!”
In Numbers 10:1-3 we read, “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, ‘Make thee two trumpets of silver . . . that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly . . . and when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the tabernacle
Regarding the rapture trumpet, Numbers 10:4 seems to be especially significant:
“If they blow but with one trumpet, then the princes, which are heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves unto thee.”
At the rapture only one trumpet is sounded, suggesting that in God’s sight believers occupy a place of utmost importance. We are all “head princes” in the mind of God.
C. The dead in Christ shall rise first. (1 Thess. 4:16) Notice that it is not simply the dead, but the dead in Christ. Only those who are saved can lay claim to this glorious promise. Every Church age saint will be raised at the rapture. The Old Testament saints will be raised at the end of the Great Tribulation. (Dan. 12:2) Hallelujah! There is hope beyond this life. When a believer dies, his body is put in the grave, but his spirit goes immediately into the presence of the Lord. We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (2 Cor. 5:8). When our Lord returns, the soul will return with Him. (1 Thess. 4:14) to be reunited with the body, which will be resurrected and glorified. (1 Jn. 3:1-3). The grave has no claim on the believer. Death and the grave have been defeated. Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:54-57) We have a hope that transcends the grave.
IV. The Rapture (1 Thess. 4:17a)
A. Rapture is the term commonly used for the catching away of the saints described in our text and on 1 Thess. 4:13-18. The Rapture is:
1. A resurrection of the dead in Christ.
2. A catching up and translation of the living New Testament Saints (v. 17)
3. The term “caught up” in 1Thess. 4:17 is also translated “pluck” (Jn. 10:28), “pulling [out of the fire]” (Jude 1:23), and “take by force” (Acts 23:10). It refers to a forceful seizing and a snatching away. It is used of the devil snatching the word of God from the heart of the foolish (Mt. 13:19) and of the Spirit of God snatching away Philip after the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:39).
B. After the bodies of dead Christians have been raised, those who are still alive and have been left behind momentarily will be caught up with them in the clouds to
meet the Lord in the air. Only a moment will separate the resurrection of the dead and the translation of the living (1 Cor. 15:51-52).
C. God’s great timing
1. This great change, when it finally occurs, will take place “in a moment.” The Greek here is en atomo, “in an atom of time.” This word is used only once in the New Testament and is the smallest particle of matter that is already indivisible.
2. It is further described by “the twinkling of an eye,” where “twinkling” is the Greek rhipe, is also used once. Rhipe is a jerk (of the eye, i.e. (by analogy) an instant) twinkling.
3. The above description “in a moment” and “the twinkling of an eye” clearly teaches us how swift and speedy will the rapture event be.
4. I do believe that this event will only happen one time and will never be repeated again.
Illustration 2: Twinkling of an eye.
The average duration for a single blink of a human eye is 0.1 to 0.4 seconds, or 100 to 400 milliseconds, according to the Harvard Database of Useful Biological Numbers. For purposes of comparison, the tick sound made by a clock lasts about one second. So, it would be possible to blink three times during a single tick of a clock. Evidently there is nothing else in this present world comparable in rapidity to this miraculous event. Probably even we who are waiting for this to happen will also be caught by surprise due to its speed
V. The Reunion (1 Thess. 4:17b -18)
A. We will meet the Lord in the air, in person, when He comes for us. The Greek word translated “meet” carries the idea of meeting a royal person or an important person. We have walked with Christ by faith here on earth, but in the air we “see Him as He is” and become like Him (1 Jn. 3:1-2). What a meeting that will be!
B. It will be a glorious meeting, because we shall have glorified bodies. When He was here on earth, Jesus prayed that we might one day see His glory and share in it (Jn. 17:22-24). The suffering that we endure today will be transformed into glory when He returns (Rom. 8:17-19; 2 Cor. 4:17-18).
C. It will be an everlasting meeting, for we shall be “forever with the Lord.” This was His promise: “I will come again, and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). The goal of redemption is not just to rescue us from judgment, but to relate us to Christ.
D. We will not only meet our Lord Jesus Christ at the Rapture, but will also be reunited with our believing friends and loved ones who have died. “Together with them” is a great statement of comfort and encouragement. Death is the great separator, but Jesus Christ is the great Reconciler.
The Thessalonian believers doesn’t know about the rapture so they are sorrowing about their loved ones who are already dead. Paul has to teach them about the rapture which is our blessed hope. We would meet the Lord in the air of course with our glorified bodies and we shall be forever with the Lord. The question now is will you be raptured when the Lord Jesus Christ comes? Yes, if you repent from your sins now and receive Him now as your personal Saviour. Do it now before its too late.