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Have You Missed Your Flight?

Preaching through the NT  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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It would be a terrible feeling to miss your plane. A number of years ago, Charity and I arrived at the Columbus airport, ready for vacation. It was shortly after the airports increased security, and they were telling everyone to arrive at least two hours before your flight was going to leave, but that sounded excessive to me, until we got there and saw the long lines. First, you have to check your luggage at the counter, and then make your way through the checkpoint. While you wait your turn to pass through the metal detector, you take your shoes off, and place your carryon items in a bin to be x-rayed. Don’t forget to empty your pockets of loose change and car keys. Once you have finally reached the end, you’re free to continue through the airport to find the right gate… unless they happen to choose you for a more thorough screening. As fate would have it, Charity was lucky enough to be the special person selected by the agent. (I guess she looked suspicious). We were looking at the time. It was going to be close, so I went on ahead to find our plane. It wasn’t far, but passengers were already boarding. I explained our situation to the stewardess, “my wife is right behind me and will be here any minute.” She replied, “I’m sorry sir, the plane must take off as scheduled, but you’re welcome to board without her.” I didn’t think that was a good idea. Leaving my wife behind in Columbus would not be the best way to start a vacation. Fortunately, she made it with a few minutes spare, and we didn’t get left behind.
Maybe you have had that experience. Just as your arrive at the gate you watch through the window as your plane barrels down the runway and lifts off into the sky. There is nothing you can do but wave as your flight disappears into the clouds.
Maybe you have had that experience. Just as your arrive at the gate you watch through the window as your plane barrels down the runway and lifts off into the sky. There is nothing you can do but wave as your flight disappears into the clouds.
Maybe you have had that experience. Just as your arrive at the gate you helplessly watch through the window as your plane barrels down the runway and lifts off into the sky. “Wait for me…” you plead as your flight disappears into the clouds.
That’s how believers in the city of Thessalonica felt, when Paul wrote his letter to them. They were confused about the return of Christ and mistakenly believed they had been left behind. Apparently, someone had written a letter to the church pretending to be Paul telling them the Day of the Lord had already come. It didn’t take much to convince them. They felt the pressure of persecution, and it sure seemed like the world around them was getting worse by the day. So when this letter arrived, it sent the people into a panic. “Oh no! This isn’t good. What are we going to do?”
That’s how believers in the city of Thessalonica felt, when Paul wrote his letter to them. They were confused about the return of Christ and mistakenly believed they had been left behind. Apparently, someone had written a letter to the church pretending to be Paul telling them the Day of the Lord had already come. It didn’t take much to convince them. They felt the pressure of persecution, and it sure seemed like the world around them was getting worse by the day. So when this letter arrived, it sent the people into a panic. “Oh no! This isn’t good. What are we going to do?”
That’s how believers in the city of Thessalonica felt, when Paul wrote his letter to them. They were confused about the return of Christ and mistakenly believed they had been left behind. Apparently, someone had written a letter to the church pretending to be Paul telling them the Day of the Lord had already come, they were living in the last days, and the great tribulation was upon them. The letter seemed authentic. Paul had spoken to them in the past about future events, and it sure felt like the end had come. They felt the pressure of persecution for their faith, and it seemed like the world around them was getting worse by the day, so they began to panic. “Oh no! What are we going to do? How could we have missed the Lord’s appearing?”
They remembered some of the things the apostle taught them about events leading up to the end times. At the end of this age, Christ will come in the air to gather his people. We call this the rapture. Believers who have already died will accompany the Lord from heaven, and those who remain will be caught up together to meet them in the clouds. From that point on, we will be in the presence of the Lord forever. But after the rapture, a period of judgment will fall on the unbelieving world. There will be war, famine, and natural disasters, unlike the world has ever seen. Since the beginning of history, humanity has been telling God, “we don’t want anything to do with you,” and finally God will give them what they want. He will step back, allowing the evil of this world to run its course, unchecked. Scripture calls this the “Great Tribulation,” or the “the Day of the Lord.” Believers in Thessalonica thought they were living in that day. No wonder they were so upset. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle tried to calm their anxious hearts, reminding them, “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” ( ESV). But these Christians had forgotten God’s promise and were living in fear.
They remembered some of the things the apostle taught them about events leading up to the end times. At the end of this age, Christ will come in the air to gather his people. We call this the rapture. Believers who have already died will accompany the Lord from heaven, and those who remain will be caught up together to meet them in the clouds. From that point on, we will be in the presence of the Lord forever. But after the rapture, a period of judgment will fall on the unbelieving world. There will be war, famine, and natural disasters, unlike the world has ever seen. Since the beginning of history, humanity has been telling God, “we don’t want anything to do with you,” and finally God will give them what they want. He will step back, allowing the evil of this world to run its course, unchecked. Scripture calls this the “Great Tribulation,” or the “the Day of the Lord.” Believers in Thessalonica thought they were living in that day. No wonder they were so upset. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle tried to calm their anxious hearts, reminding them, “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” ( ESV). But these Christians had forgotten God’s promise and were living in fear.
Apparently, they had already forgotten what the apostle said in the first letter that he wrote to them. He explained that one day Christ will come in the clouds to gather his people. It could happen at any moment, when the church age has come to its completion. Believers who have already died will accompany the Lord from heaven, and those who remain will be caught up together to meet them in the air. It will happen suddenly, and without warning. From that moment on, we will be in the presence of the Lord forever. We call this the rapture, and Scripture tells us that it is our blessed hope. It you know Christ as your Savior, you won’t be left behind. We should look forward to that day with longing and expectation knowing that this is our destiny.
Sadly, there are many Christians today who have a fearful attitude when they think about the future. As we feel the world around us drifting further and further away from God, it is easy to become discouraged, forgetting that God is still in control. Maybe we are worried that he will abandon us. Maybe we are afraid that the forces of darkness are too strong to overcome. Maybe we are nervous out being left behind. We need to stop worrying, because Christ is coming again to deliver his people. Even though things might get worse before they get better, in the end, the Lord will prevail. Good will conquer evil. God’s light will triumph over the powers of darkness. Satan will be defeated once and for all. Christ will lay claim to the universe that is rightfully his and make all things new.
Sadly, there are many Christians today who have a fearful attitude when they think about the future. As we feel the world around us drifting further and further away from God, it is easy to become discouraged, forgetting that God is still in control. Maybe we are worried that he will abandon us. Maybe we are afraid that the forces of darkness are too strong to overcome. Maybe we are nervous out being left behind. We need to stop worrying, because Christ is coming again to deliver his people. Even though things might get worse before they get better, in the end, the Lord will prevail. Good will conquer evil. God’s light will triumph over the powers of darkness. Satan will be defeated once and for all. Christ will lay claim to the universe that is rightfully his and make all things new.
The apostle also explained that after the rapture, a period of judgment will fall on the unbelieving world. There will be war, famine, and natural disasters, unlike the earth has ever seen. Since the beginning of history, humanity has been telling God, “we don’t want anything to do with you,” and finally God will give them what they want. He will step back, allowing wickedness of man to run its course. Scripture calls this the “Great Tribulation,” or the “the Day of the Lord” and we read about in both the OT and the NT. It will literally be hell on earth. Believers in Thessalonica were terrified because they thought they were living in that day. They were anxious and confused, and so the tried to calm their anxious hearts by explaining the sequence of events that will come about in the end times.
God has given us a glimpse into the future, through passages like this, not to terrify us, but to give us hope.
God has given us a glimpse into the future, through passages like this, not to terrify us, but to give us hope.
Sadly, there are many Christians today who have a fearful attitude when they think about the future. As we feel the world around us drifting further and further away from God, it is easy to become discouraged. We forget that God is still in control. Maybe we are worried that he will abandon us. Maybe we are afraid that the forces of darkness are too strong to overcome. Maybe we are nervous out being left behind. We need to stop worrying, and place our hope in the Lord. Christ has come to save us from our sin, and he is coming again to carrying us into his presence. As desperate as things might seem, nothing will change that. God doesn’t want us to live in fear, he wants us to be certain about our future. That’s why he has given us a glimpse into the future, through passages like this, not to terrify us, but to give us hope.
In the passage, the apostle assures believers by giving them landmarks to help them discern where they are in the biblical timeline. We know that the Day of the Lord has not yet begun because there are certain events that will unfold when that day arrives.
In verses 1-2 the apostle writes,
In verses 1-2 the apostle writes,
1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
The apostle tries to calm the Thessalonians telling them, “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t allow yourself to be shaken!” There are a lot of people out there making all kinds of claims but not all of it is true. Do you remember the guy, a few years ago, who put up billboards all over the country about Judgment Day. “It is coming, May 21st, 2011. The Bible guarantees it!” he said. I don’t know what Bible he was reading, but my Bible says no man knows the day or the hour (). When people see those things they come unglued… Christian people… people who should know better… “What if he’s right?” they worry. What if it’s true?” I say: praise the Lord! If Christ were to come today that would be a good thing. Scripture says that today we “…wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” ()
The apostle tries to calm the Thessalonians telling them, “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t allow yourself to be shaken!” There are a lot of people out there making all kinds of claims but not all of it is true.
But the Thessalonians were worried that the missed the rapture, and were living through the tribulation. “There’s no way,” apostle tells them. Even if somehow we had been left behind, we would know if the tribulation has come. As bad as things might seem today, they are going to much, much worse. Verse 3 says, “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first…” He doesn’t go into detail as to what that entails. Apparently, he had talked to them about this before. But the word means “Falling away,” or rebellion.” He seems to be describing a worldwide rebellion against the Lord. Even churches, that had once proclaimed the good news of Jesus, will abandon the gospel. That’s not surprising. If all believers are taken out of the world in the rapture, there will be no one left to defend the truth, and so the world will plunge rapidly into darkness. To some degree, we see that happening today. We hear about preachers abandoning sound doctrine to tell people what they want to hear. We see denominations changing their beliefs to accommodate the culture. But as the end of the age approaches, it is only going to get worse. One author says, “In the last times there will be a great uprising of the powers of evil against God… as though Satan were throwing all his forces into one last despairing effort.”[i]
Do you remember the guy, a few years ago, who put up billboards all over the country about Judgment Day. “It is coming, May 21st, 2011. The Bible guarantees it!” he said. I don’t know what Bible he was reading, but my Bible says no man knows the day or the hour (). When people see those things they come unglued… even Christian people… people who should know better… “What if he’s right?” they worry. What if it’s true?” I say: praise the Lord! If Christ were to come today that would be a good thing. We long for that day and look forward to it with expectation.
And there will be someone leading this rebellion. Verses 3-4 go one to say, “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.”
Paul goes on to show the Thessalonians there was no way they were living in the tribulation. If it were true, they would know. It’s sort of like how you know when the 4th of July has come. When you look up and see fireworks in the sky, and the sound of bottle rockets zipping through the air, you know what that means. Even if you don’t have a calendar, you know that it must be the 4th of July. Those are things that happen on that day every year. And there are certain events that will go along with the Day of the Lord.
Other passages speak of world leader known as the antichrist, who will be the living embodiment of evil. To the people of the world, he will seem charismatic, wise, a skilled politician, promising peace and prosperity, but it will come at a cost. He will demand not only their loyalty but also their worship. The
[i] Morris, L. (1984). 1 and 2 Thessalonians: An introduction and commentary (Vol. 13, p. 126). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Verse 3 says, “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first…” He doesn’t go into detail as to what that entails. Apparently, he had talked to them about this before. But the word means “Falling away,” or rebellion.” He seems to be describing a worldwide rebellion against the Lord. Even churches, that had once proclaimed the good news of Jesus, will abandon the gospel. That’s not surprising. If all believers are taken out of the world in the rapture, there will be no one left to defend the truth, and so the world will plunge rapidly into darkness. To some degree, we see that happening today. We hear about preachers abandoning sound doctrine to tell people what they want to hear. We see denominations changing their beliefs to accommodate the culture. But as the end of the age approaches, it is only going to get worse. One author says, “In the last times there will be a great uprising of the powers of evil against God… as though Satan were throwing all his forces into one last despairing effort.”[i]
And there will be someone leading this rebellion. Verses 3-4 go one to say, “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.”
There are several passages in the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation that describe a political ruler who will come on the scene in the last days to deceive the nations. He is known as the antichrist, and he will be the living embodiment of evil. Throughout history there have been many candidates: Nero, Hitler… As bad as they were, this future king will have them all beat. To the unsuspecting world, he will seem wise and charismatic, a skilled politician who promises peace and prosperity, but it will come at a cost. Ultimately, he will portray himself as God and demand worship from his subjects. There will be no one in the world able to stand against him, but just when it seems that the world has been consumed by darkness, Christ will defeat him.
Some of the things that we read about in the passage seem frightening. Why would the apostle bring these things up when the Thessalonians were already scared? Because he wanted to assure them that the final victory has already been won. In the end, the Lord will prevail. Good will triumph over evil. God’s light will conquer the powers of darkness. Satan will be overthrown once and for all. Christ will lay claim to the universe that is rightfully his and make all things new. So why should we be afraid?
One author writes,
God is in control. Things may seem to be crashing to chaos, but in some strange way even the chaos is [in his hands]. The ultimate triumph of the Lord is certain. In the end, nothing can stand against him. The lawless one may have his day, but there comes a time when God says: ‘Thus far and no further.’ And so the great question is this: ‘On what side are you? In the struggle at the heart of the universe, are you for God—or Satan?’[ii]
If we don’t know Christ, then the future really is a terrifying thing. The Lord’s coming is not good news for this rebellious world. He will come as a conquering king to judge the nations. I don’t want to be among those who are left behind to go through the great and terrible Day of the Lord. Thankfully, that doesn’t have to be our fate. God is reaching out to us with grace and mercy, calling us into a relationship with him through Christ. If you have responded to him in faith, you can look to the future with hope and assurance. The Lord will not abandon us. He has gone ahead to prepare us place for you in his Father’s house. We won’t be left behind. The trumpet call will summon us to the glorious reunion of God’s people in the clouds. That is our destiny, so look to the future will confidence.
“God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” ( ESV).
[i] Morris, L. (1984). 1 and 2 Thessalonians: An introduction and commentary (Vol. 13, p. 126). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
[ii] Barclay, W. (2003). The Letters to Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (3rd ed. fully rev. and updated, pp. 248–249). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.
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