Sometimes we all need a little encouragement. As we move in our study to the second half of 1 Thessalonians 4, we’ll be reminded that because Jesus is coming back for His Church, we have hope! What a great word of promise for us all today! Even in a world of hopelessness, we can have confidence in what’s ahead!
The devil has many lies about death, eternity, and the end times. Throughout history we have seen those who set dates and made false prophecies concerning the Lord’s return. The good news is we do not rely upon human speculation because God has given us divine revelation. In verse 13, Paul says he doesn’t want the church to be ignorant concerning spiritual things, specifically death and the end times. We have the word of the Lord (v. 15). God has told us what we need to know for life, death, and eternity in the Holy Scriptures. The world as we know it had a beginning, and it will have an end. We all know we live in a world of sorrow. We grieve. People suffer. People get sick. People die. Even Jesus wept at the graveside of Lazarus. He was a man of sorrow acquainted with grief. The Bible pictures the death of a Christian as sleep. It’s not soul-sleep or unconsciousness. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Death is to fall into the arms of Jesus. It is closing your eyes in this life only to open them and see the face of Jesus. We have hope! That is the difference between unbelievers and believers. We have hope even in a world of sorrow. For the people of God, the best is yet to come!
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (v. 16). The second coming of Jesus is the most mentioned event in the Bible. Out of 260 chapters in the New Testament, it is mentioned 318 times! The last prayer of the Bible is, “Even so come Lord Jesus.” Every chapter in 1 Thessalonians mentions the Lord’s return. One day the Father will say to the Son, “Go get my children!” The return will be dramatic, definite, and destructive (2 Pet. 3:3-7). God is going to pour out His wrath on this earth (see also Matt. 24). While this can be unsettling, believers can find comfort knowing they will be with Jesus. In John 14, Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
“…And the dead in Christ will rise first” (v. 16). Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (Jn. 11:25). Jesus spoke, “Lazarus come forth” and he came out (Jn. 11:43-44). Christians buried in cemeteries all over the world and at sea will hear His voice and the dead in Christ will rise first.
“Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together…” (v. 17). This is the great chapter in Scripture on the rapture. You cannot believe the Bible and not believe in a rapture. The Bible is clear that Jesus is coming, the dead in Christ will experience resurrection, and believers who are alive will be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. Jesus is coming to bring wrath and judgment on the devil, anti-Christ, and the world, but the rapture of His believers must take place first.
“…with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (v. 17). One of the hardest things in life is saying goodbye, whether it’s for college, deployment, death, etc. One day though, there is going to be a family reunion that all of hell itself cannot stop!
Paul closes this chapter saying, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (v. 18). Knowing all of this, what are we to do? Comfort one another. Encourage one another. Bear one another’s burdens. Love one another. Pray for one another. Prefer one another. Serve one another. We need one another. The world has nothing to look forward to, but we have hope in a world of hopelessness!