Promise of the Parousia
The study of the end times is the consuming passion of many in the church today. Sensational best-selling authors argue that current events fulfill their often dubious interpretations of biblical prophecy. Some claim to have figured out the secret that even Jesus in His Incarnation did not know—the time of the Second Coming. Tragically, some people get so caught up in the study of eschatology that they neglect the basic principles of spiritual growth and evangelism that the Second Coming is designed to motivate.
Of all the end-time events, the Rapture of the church seems to generate the most interest and discussion. The young church at Thessalonica also had questions about that event, so Paul addressed their concerns in this passage. But unlike most modem-day treatises on the subject, Paul’s concern was not just doctrinal, but pastoral. His intent was not to give a detailed description of the Rapture, but to comfort the Thessalonians. He ends chapter four with the statement; “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” The promise of the Second Coming of Jesus was never meant to divide the Church, but to comfort the Church.
The promise of the Holy Scripture is that those who know Christ personally, will see Jesus face to face, with joy in their heart and excitement in their spiritual veins. When we see Him, “You shall know fully, even as you are fully known.”
As a new Christian, I can remember singing a hymn that, for a long time, was one of my favorites. It went:
Face to face with Christ my Savior,
Face to face – what will it be,
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ who died for me?
Face to face I shall behold Him,
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by!
I. WE ARE NOT WITHOUT HOPE
- Paul had spent much time at instructing the believers at the church of Thessalonica in the faith
- he had boldly proclaimed the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord, Jesus Christ
- he also gave them the good news of the Parousia of the church—is in gathering at the Second Coming of Jesus
- but between Paul’s church planting at Thessalonica and his residence at Corinth, an event had occurred which caused considerable spiritual discouragement among the new believers at Thessalonica
- several believers had passed away before the Second Coming had taken place and the Thessalonians were afraid that those who died before the Lord’s return would not have any part in the resurrection
- Paul’s message is one of affirming hope
- all believers, whether asleep in the Lord or alive at his coming will have a part in the resurrection
- ILLUS. William Jennings Bryan once said: “If the heavenly Father deigns to touch with divine power the cold and pulseless heart of a buried acorn and make it burst forth from its prison wall, will He leave buried in the earth the body of man made in the image of His Creator?"
- the idea of “soul sleep— that the souls of the dead are in a state of unconscious existence in the afterlife—is an idea foreign to the New Testament writers
- the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that he “preferred rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord”
- Jesus told the penitent theif on the cross that today you will be with me in Paradise
A. OUR REASSURANCE—BE NOT IGNORANT
- Thessalonians 4:13 “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” KJV
- there is an old adage that says, “Ignorance is bliss.”
- ignorance concerning spiritual matters does not lead to bliss
- ignorance concerning spiritual realities is always bad for the believer
- it leads to a lack of spiritual comfort and ultimately it leads to faithlessness
- ignorance about death, resurrection and eternal life lead to worldly grief and despair and fear which has no sure hope for life after death
- Paul related this information to the Thessalonians so that they would not grieve
- there is a normal sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, caused by the pain of separation and loneliness
- Jesus grieved over the death of Lazarus
- Paul exhorted the Romans to “weep with those who weep”
- however, the apostle did not have that kind of grief in mind here, but grief like the rest who have no hope
- the Greek and Roman world of Paul’s day was, indeed, a hopeless world
- in his letter to the Ephesian Church, Paul reminded the believers of their hopelessness in eternal matters
- “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh . . . That at that time ye were without Christ . . . having no hope, and without God in the world:” (Ephesians 2:11-12, KJV)
- to the Greeks and Romans death was final and unforgiving
- the body perished and was without hope
- the soul went to a sunless Hades where the dead bemoaned their existence
- such a view of death did little to inspire confidence in the pagan heart
- all of the popular philosophers of the ancient world denied the resurrection and taught that there was no hope once a man was dead
- ILLUS. A tombstone of a 1st century Greek lamented: “I was not; I became; I am not; I care not?.” Now that’s a cheery epitaph if every I heard one.
- Paul did not tell them not to grieve
- grief and grieving is a natural occurrence when we lose somebody close to us
- but for the believer, we can have hope and reassurance of being reunited with loved ones and friends who have died in the faith
B. GOD’S REVELATION—WE ARE TO HAVE CONFIDENCE IN THE LORD’S RETURN FOR US
- “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14, KJV)
- Jesus had promised his disciples when he was with them . . .
- “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2-3, KJV)
- over against pagan hopelessness Paul now proceeds to lay a solid foundation for Christian hope in reference to those who have fallen asleep in Christ
- Christ died and rose again to take the fear and the sting our of death for us
- “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15, KJV)
- we believe that Jesus died and rose again
- ILLUS. Adrian Rogers, Pastor of Belview Baptist Church in Memphsis, TN once said, “There are some things we should not be dogmatic about, but there are some things we should be bulldog-matic about.”
- friends, this great doctrinal, theological, spiritual and historical truth is one of those things we should be bulldog-matic about
- JESUS DIED AND ROSE AGAIN!
- since we believe this great truth then it follows that we should believe the second great truth of verse 14
- 1 Thessalonians 4:14 “ ... so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” NIV
- their grief of losing loved ones could be tempered with the knowledge that they too would have a part in the Parousia
- death could not keep our Lord in the grave
- neither can it keep us
- ILLUS. One of our great hymns of the faith tells the story: “Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior, Waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord! Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus my Savior, He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord! Up from the grave He arose with a mightly triumph over His foes; He arose a victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah Christ arose!"
- hallelujah, Jesus is alive!
C. THE SAINTS RESURRECTION—A GLORIOUS EVENT
- FIRST, it begins with an authoritative shout of our Lord himself v. 16
- the veil of heaven will be pushed back and the Lord Jesus will descend from his throne in Heaven
- ILLUS. Remember the old Shout laundry detergent commercials? The announcer would say “shout it out,” that is the dirt in your cloths. Well, that’s what the Lord is going to do. He’s going to shout dead saints right out of their graves.
- the word shout refers to an order which an officer shouts to his troops
- Jesus died as a suffering servant
- he’s returning as a conquering commander
- what a tune that will be!
- ILLUS. When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more, And the morning breaks eternal, bright and fair; When the saved on earth shall gather over on the other shore, And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.
- the implication is on the suddenness and the swiftness of the event
- the result is that we will “. . . meet the Lord in the air. And so be with him forever.”
D. OUR REJOICING IN THE PROMISE OF THIS EVENT
- “Therefore encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:18, NIV)
II. THE APPLICATION
A. ARE YOU READY?
- John 5:24-25 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25 I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” NIV