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The Rapture- Our Comfort, Encouragement, and Hope!

I Thessalonians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:55
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We live in a world that is easily overcome by fear. And as some of you have no doubt observed recently in our country that fear can lead to panic and hysteria. And it can cause us to do crazy things- like depleting the world’s supply of toilet paper. Why is that? Why is fear so powerful?
Hebrews 2:14–15 ESV
14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
The author of Hebrews tells us that Satan’s power over this world is the power of death, and he holds people captive, he holds them prisoner, in lifelong slavery through the fear of death. That is Satan’s stronghold! He wields the power of the fear of death. And what I mean is, the chains that Satan uses to bind people to his power, his cruel chains, are made out of fear, and it is the most powerful fear there is, the fear of dying and of death. And we have seen that power vividly displayed before or eyes in the last few days.
Now the glorious news of the gospel is that for those who have become children of God through believing in Jesus and receiving Him as their Savior- we no longer have to fear death! Why? Because through the death of Jesus He destroyed the one who has the power of death and he has delivered us from lifelong slavery.
In other words the chains of fear that Satan uses to bind us to his power are broken! We have been delivered from them.
However, sometimes we still live in fear of death. It’s like we willingly return to Satan’s dungeon, and we offer the devil our hands so that he can bind us all over again to the fear of death.
This is our problem, but the truth is we have been delivered from that fear. Satan is a defeated weaponless powerless foe- because he has been destroyed by Jesus’s death on the cross for our behalf.
How do we live lives free from the power of the fear of death?
This is the question Paul aims to answer in I Thessalonians 4:13-18.
Remember, Paul is addressing these believers from the heart of a disciple-maker. His goal is to spiritually reproduce himself in the lives of these saints. He wants to teach them everything he knows.
Paul was separated from the Thessalonian believers and he couldn’t text them or do a Zoom chat with them. So he did the best that he could- he sent Timothy to find out about their faith. Timothy had just returned and reported to Paul the good news that they were standing fast in the Lord. But Timothy also reported some areas that were lacking. And Paul, being the disciple-maker that he was, was trying to fix those deficiencies.
1 Thessalonians 3:10 ESV
10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?
So, Paul begins to teach them in chapter 4- in the area of sanctification and in the area of loving one another.
Now he moves on to teaching them about the rapture in vv. 13-18.
Paul instructed the Thessalonian believers to live hope filled, comforted, encouraged lives by embracing the truths of the rapture.
We must live lives full of hope, full of comfort, and full of encouragement by embracing the truths of the rapture.
How do we do that?
I believe Paul gives us three truths about the rapture that we must understand, believe, and live out so that we might be hopeful people.

I. We can live hopeful lives by reminding one another that Jesus’ death and resurrection guarantees our victory over death (vv. 13-14)

1 Thessalonians 4:13–14 KJV 1900
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. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

A. Living in ignorance to the truth is what causes sorrow and grief (v. 13)

Paul says to these believers in v. 13- that his wish or his desire is that they would not be ignorant to the truth.
Ignorant- to be uninformed, to be lacking in knowledge or information.
How is it possible for us to be ignorant of the truth? Especially, the truth pertaining to the rapture and to Jesus’ death and His resurrection. I doubt that I am going to give any of you new information this morning. So you sit there and you think, “I know all about the rapture and the resurrection and Jesus’ sacrificial death- I am not living in ignorance.” And that is true in one sense of the word.
My question is, do we live with an active awareness of the truth? Or do we live as if in ignorance to the truth? What do I mean?
Let’s say you have a severe dairy allergy. Every time you eat dairy you get intense abdominal pain. Now if you live in awareness of that truth you are not going to do what? Eat dairy. But, let’s say you are at the Wisconsin State Fair and you walk by the cheese curd booth and you get a whiff of the smell of freshly fried Wisconsin cheese curds. And your stomach does a T-Rex impersonation. At that moment what are you thinking about? You know that if you eat them you will get a stomach ache, but you don’t care. It’s like you block that knowledge out of you head, you live in ignorance of the truth so you can eat those curds.
Paul’s desire is that we would not live in ignorance concerning those who have fallen asleep. Apparently the Thessalonians were worried about their fellow believers who had already died. They didn’t know what was going to happen to them. They already knew about the rapture and they were teaching that doctrine to others.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 KJV 1900
10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.
So now Paul is supplying what is lacking in their faith concerning those who have fallen asleep.
And he does this- SO THAT they might not sorrow or grieve. This same word “sorrow” or “grief” is used in John 16 of Jesus’ death.
John 16:20 NASB95
20 “Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.
Don’t be ignorant of the truth concerning death, because ignorance leads to grief and sorrow. And God doesn’t want us to live in perpetual grief and sorrow.
Even as others who have no hope. Don’t live in grief don’t live in hopelessness- Believer, God doesn’t want you to live this way.

B. Our fear of death is destroyed because of our confidence in our Savior (v. 14)

1 Thessalonians 4:14 KJV 1900
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
Here Paul is building his argument- he is building his case against the fear of death. Don’t grieve, don’t be sorrowful, don’t be hopeless. Why?
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again-
This is the first part of the argument. If we, beloved, believe in Jesus- that he died for our sins and that he was buried and that he rose again. Do you believe that? Do you have confidence in that? To what degree of confidence do you have in the death and resurrection of Jesus? If you are a believer you have staked your eternal destiny solely on his death and his resurrection, haven’t you?
So, if you believe that- if you have staked your confidence on Jesus for your eternity!
(Then) even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
Literally the Greek reads:
(Then), so also God
the ones who have fallen asleep
BECAUSE OF JESUS / or THROUGH JESUS
He (God) will bring with Him (Jesus).
So we don’t have to fear death because of Jesus! He died for our sins and he rose again, therefore because of Him God will bring us back to life with Him!
1 Corinthians 15:21–23 ESV
21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
Now this doesn’t mean that we can live foolishly-
1 Timothy 2:1–3 ESV
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,
But, it does mean we don’t have to live fearfully.
How do we live hopeful lives?
1. By reminding one another that Jesus’ death and resurrection guarantees our victory over death.

II. We can live hopeful lives by reminding one another that the very Word of God guarantees our victory over death (v. 15)

1 Thessalonians 4:15 KJV 1900
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

A. The certainty of the resurrection of the dead is based on the authority of the Word of God. (v. 15a)

You don’t have to fear death. Because of Jesus, God will bring the dead in Christ with Jesus- that is God will raise them up from the dead just like Jesus was raised from the dead.
Then Paul says- for this we say unto you by the word of the Lord.
Paul wanted to give them certainty by clearly stating that the truth of the resurrection of the dead came from the God Himself. Not only was Paul personally taught by Jesus Christ Himself, because he was an apostle. But, Paul was writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So while these were his own words, they were breathed out by God, Paul was moved along by the Spirit of God, like the wind in a sail, so that the words Paul penned were the very words of God.
And this truth of the resurrection of the dead is so foundational to our hope and to the destruction of fear that Paul wants us to understand that he is telling us this under the full weight of the authority of the Word of the Lord.

B. The Word of God emphatically states the certainty of the resurrection of the dead (v. 15b)

1 Thessalonians 4:15 KJV 1900
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
ὅτι ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι
that we, the ones living- the ones remaining-
εἰς τὴν παρουσίαν τοῦ ⸀κυρίου
unto the coming of the Lord,
οὐ μὴ φθάσωμεν τοὺς κοιμηθέντας·*
will BY NO MEANS precede the ones who have fallen asleep;
οὐ μὴ- by no means, certainly not -
We will NO NOT precede the ones who have fallen asleep
This is terrible English, but excellent Greek! A double negative in Greek emphatically states a truth.
Sometimes I like to tease my wife by using double negatives in slang form. I rarely have any physical money on me because of the digital world we live in, so if my wife asks me if I have any cash I might reply to her, “Sorry dear, I ain’t got nothing!” She always rolls her eyes at me for some reason.
Or if my wife is trying to get me to do something that I really don’t want to do- like spend the entire day shopping. (The ladies went out the other day and spent 8 hours at IKEA). If my wife asked me to spend 8 hours shopping at IKEA I would probably reply something like, “Sorry dear, it ain’t never gonna happen.”
We, the one who are living and remaining, unto the coming of the Lord, will by no means - certainly never - No - Not precede the ones who have fallen asleep. It ain’t never gonna happen.
How do we live hopeful lives?
1. By reminding one another that Jesus’ death and resurrection guarantees our victory over death.
2. By reminding one another that the very Word of God guarantees our victory over death.

III. We can live hopeful lives by reminding one another that the promise of the rapture guarantees our victory over death (vv. 16-18)

1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 KJV 1900
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

A. Our confidence in the rapture is based on the power of Jesus Himself (v. 16)

1 Thessalonians 4:16 KJV 1900
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
We have to tied v. 16 to the end of v. 15- to the emphatic statement- We shall by no means precede the ones who have fallen asleep! How do we know that?
V. 16- For the Lord Himself, or you could say BECAUSE the Lord Himself. I know the dead in Christ will rise BECAUSE Jesus Himself will bring to bear His all mighty power! Look at how that power is described.
Jesus Himself will descend from heaven
With a shout! With a cry of command
Like a signal for engagement in a battle. Charge! Attack!
Like the well-managed and orderly crew of a ship who obeyed one signal only, namely, that of their master, like sailors obeying the command of their captain.
There is no earthly parallel for what the powerful cry of command of Jesus will be like when the rapture takes place. All Paul can do is heap descriptive phrases together to help us understand, if only a little, what the sheer power of His voice will be like.
So it’s like a cry of command from a general or a ship’s captain, but it is also like:
2. The voice of an archangel
Whether this is saying Jesus’ voice is powerful like the voice of an archangel, or if archangels will accompany Jesus when he descends from heaven and this unnamed archangel will add his voice to that of Jesus’ command I am not sure. But, surely it will be an awesome event to behold.
3. The trumpet of God.
This just radiates power! A cry of command from Jesus, and an archangels voice, and the trumpet of God! That is incredible! And it is so powerful that at that moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump the dead will be resurrected to immortality!
1 Corinthians 15:51–55 ESV
51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Death’s sting will be forever gone on that day when Jesus Himself comes in all His power and utters one command and in a moment all of the dead in Christ, and those that still live but are in Christ, will be once and for all changed! We will put on immortality and be ushered into victory! Beloved, I can’t wait for that day!
John 11:43 ESV
43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”
John 5:25 ESV
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

B. Our hope in the rapture is based on the presence of Jesus Himself (v. 17)

1 Thessalonians 4:17 KJV 1900
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Here is our hope beloved. It is not just that we will be raised from the dead and given immortality. Eternal life is meaningless without v. 17. Our hope is that we will be changed, caught up into the clouds together (both the dead and the living in Christ) to meet Jesus in the air. We are going to be with our Savior. We are going to see Him face to face in all His glory! The bride of Christ finally reunited with the bridegroom.
We will meet the Lord in the air. But the text doesn’t stop there, does it? It keeps going and aren’t you thankful it does? And so shall we ever be with the Lord. Once we meet the Lord in the air we will always be with the Lord! That’s our hope. That’s our encouragement. That’s our comfort and our joy. That has to be at the bottom of our joy. Because it can never be taken away, and since it can never be taken away and since it is at the bottom of our joy we can always be hopeful people.

C. Our command concerning the rapture is to continually encourage one another (v. 18)

1 Thessalonians 4:18 KJV 1900
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
παρακαλέω- to instill with courage and cheer to encourage or to cheer up.
Does anyone need some encouragement after this past week?
That is one of the things that you need to be doing for one another on a constant basis. But our encouragement doesn’t come from a pithy statements on Facebook (refrigerator magnet theology, bumper sticker theology). It needs to come from the members of your local church, and at least part of it needs to be from these words we have read this morning.
We are going to give you a chance in just a moment in singing to one another psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs- and in the public reading of Scripture, and in corporate prayer to be an encouragement to one another.
How do we live hopeful lives?
1. By reminding one another that Jesus’ death and resurrection guarantees our victory over death.
2. By reminding one another that the very Word of God guarantees our victory over death.
3. By reminding one another that the promise of the rapture guarantees our victory over death.
Don’t live foolishly, but also don’t live fearfully- lives full of hope, full of comfort, and full of encouragement by embracing the truths of the rapture and by encouraging one another.
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