Word for the day by Christian Education Forum

Coming Again: Hope of Resurrection
1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18
Pothen Abraham and Dr. Anne Pothen,

Orlando MTC.

16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 

As the Christmas carols and the festivities of another season of advent fade away and routine life returns to some level of normalcy, we are reminded that just as the Bible foretold the coming of a Saviour as an infant, the Bible also tells us that the same Jesus, our Savior, will return again. If the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus’ first coming were fulfilled to the letter, we can rest assured that the return of our Lord Jesus Christ will also be fulfilled. As Jesus departed from this world at His first coming, the angels informed the assembly of believers, “…This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will return in like manner.” (Acts 1:11b). The joys of advent season should continue as we experience Christ, our Emmanuel, in our own daily lives and be comforted by the blessed hope that Christ will return for His own. 

In today’s passage, we see Apostle Paul writing to the Thessalonians after his visit to clear the doubts in the mind of believers there. During Paul’s time in Thessalonica, Paul taught that Jesus is the Messiah and that His return is imminent. While there was acceptance of Paul’s teaching and anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ, there was also some anxiety among the believers that should they die before Christ returns and that they would miss out on participating in this redemptive event and thereby miss out on salvation. Here Paul assures them that even though we die, we will be resurrected in the body to be with Christ.

All this is possible only because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin with His own life (Rom 5:8 and 6:10). Thus Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 describes our physical death as only a falling asleep, where the body returns to earth while the soul returns to God (Luke 16:22 and 2 Corinthians 5:8). Then when Jesus returns as it says in v 15, He will raise the dead first, and then those who are alive will be caught up in the air. Romans 10:9 says that if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
It is possible that in vs. 16-17 Paul was making a reference to this future event just as promised by Christ in John 14:1-3 that He will return to gather His own. In v. 18, we, as believers, are to take comfort in knowing that death is a temporary separation before we are re-united with our loved ones, and together we will all be with our Lord.

This event in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, known as the rapture, marks the conclusion of the church age with the departure and removal of the believers. It was first mentioned by Jesus Christ in John 14: 1-3 and later by Paul in further revealing God’s mystery as described in 1 Corinthians 15:51.

The coming of Jesus taught in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, when Jesus returns to gather His church from the coming wrath, is distinctly different in character compared to Jesus returning in judgment of the world as described in Matthew 25: 31-46, and Revelation 19:11-21.  We ought to take comfort in knowing that we will be removed from the world before its judgment.

Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Your Son to save us from our sins.  Help prepare our hearts for Christ’s second coming so that we may spend eternity with Him. Amen.
Let us pause from the cares of this world and look forward and prepare for the return of Jesus Christ.

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