Faithlife Sermons

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

1 Thessalonians   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  42:47
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Show the Rapture memes
Last one… Harold Camping predictions:
September 6, 1994
… then September 29, 1994
… then October 2, 1994
… then finally May 21, 2011
He apologized and said he was ‘sinful’ for his predictions in March 2012, and not long after, died on December 13, 2013.
Grab your Bible’s and open up to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 as we look at the next section in Paul’s letter to the Christians at Thessalonica.
The Thessalonians had a lot of passion and faithfulness for living for the Lord and were doing a lot right, but as we’ll discover in this passage, they were pretty confused on the subject of Christ’s Return.
I would also say that many of us today are confused about how Christ will return or what will happen so today we’ll jump in and get some Biblical insight.
In these verses we see a future time when both the dead and alive believers are taken up to heaven.
This is what has become known as Christ’s Return or the Rapture.
There is also what is known as the second coming, but this event is later and we’ll talk about that in a minute.
The rapture is when Jesus Christ returns to remove the church (all believers in Christ) from this world.
The word rapture is not mentioned but in the Bible but it is translated as “a snatching away”, an instant event.
In this context, there are two specific passages in the Bible where we can see the future event will happen.
Our current passage, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and,
1 Corinthians 15:50–54 NIV
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
Here in Corinthians 15, Paul is saying that not everyone will be “asleep” or dead when the trumpet will sound.
When we look at our 1 Thessalonians 4 passage we can see that there is a progression- those that sleep or are dead, will rise first and then all believers will be snatched away.
The debate that has continued over many years is whether the church, that is currently alive, will be raptured before, during or after the tribulation period.
The Tribulation period can be found in great detail in Revelation 6-16.
We do not have time to go through the events that will take place today, but just know, we would prefer to not be alive during those times.
The “Lord’s Second Coming” is different from the rapture and it is when He comes back to defeat the Antichrist, destroy evil, and establish His Millennial Kingdom- you can read all about this in Revelation 19:11-16.
So, a few differences to note about the difference in the rapture and the second coming are:
The rapture is when the believers meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17) and the second coming is when believers return back to the earth with the Lord during His Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 19:14).
The second coming happens after the tribulation.
The rapture is when all believers are removed from the earth as an act of deliverance and the second coming includes the removal of unbelievers as an act of judgment (Matt. 24:40-41).
The rapture will happen instantly and quietly, the second coming will be seen by all.
And lastly, the second coming will not occur until certain other end-times events take place. The rapture could happen at any moment.
...Three observations...
-If the rapture and the second coming are the same event that would mean that believers would go through the 7 years of tribulation.
-If they are the same event than that would mean there are many events that would need to take place before Christ returns. (Matt. 24:4-30)
The Pre-Tribulation view would use 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 as evidence, as well as a few other verses...
Romans 5:9 NIV
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
1 Thessalonians 5:9 NIV
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Revelation 3:10 NIV
Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
The Mid-Tribulation view would understand that the Tribulation would be 7 years long, but broken in half based off of Revelation 11:1-3.
And the Post-Tribulation view would interpret 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 this way...
The Lord comes down, there is a loud command, voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God
The dead in Christ will rise first, Tribulation happens.
After the Tribulation, we who are still alive and are left, will be caught up in the air together with the Lord, and the other believers who have died in the past.
I need to make a disclaimer before continuing on- whether you are pre, mid, post or pan Tribulation (It will “pan” out however God wants it to), it does not affect our salvation.
And we should have grace and love for our brothers and sisters who hold a different view than us on this subject!
Open your Bibles back up to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 since that is our passage for today.
Last week, Steve did an excellent job of presenting the importance and need for purity as believers, as he worked his way through the beginning of chapter 4.
We can see that the believers at Thessalonica had many strengths but they also had some issues and one of them was their obsession with Christ’s return.
Them being excited was not an issue.
The issue was that many of them basically stopped planning for the future, working hard and providing for their family because they expected Jesus’ return so soon.
They neglected their daily responsibilities and obligations and became freeloaders in a way, which came to be a negative testimony to those around them.
Laziness should be the last thing unbelievers see in a Christian’s testimony- the Lord called us to be busy people working and living for Him and serving others.
I really appreciated and still appreciate Pastor Dan Woolery’s work ethic- I served with him here when he was pastor for about 7-8 years.
He is one of the main reasons I am still here today serving in ministry.
Not only was and is still serving the Lord, but he works hard on his ranch, and makes a point to go out with Laurie to walk the streets of Cottonwood and pray for those around him.
He would do anything for anyone, and you can often find him sitting in coffee shops or around town getting to know people, or chatting with other believers about the Lord in public.
Although the believers in Thessalonica had good intentions and I’m sure warned those around them of Christ’s quick return, they neglected the important things in their daily lives.
Often we can get so hung up on secondary issues in our faith that we allow division to take place between our fellow brothers and sisters.
This should not be!
Colossians 3:13 NIV
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
The Thessalonians also seemed to be confused on the subject of whether they would see their fellow brothers and sisters again if they were raptured.
Paul clears this up by explaining what happens.
He refers to death, in verse 13 as “being asleep”.
But as we know, sleeping implies as future awakening.
Our solid hope as believers is that Christ died and rose again (1 Thess. 4:14), He did not stay dead.
His death paid the penalty for our sins- past, present and future so we can have absolute confidence in the afterlife.
Paul also mentions what happens to our bodies when we die and leave this earth in a couple other passages...
Philippians 3:20–21 NIV
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
We can see that our bodies will be transformed, can you imagine- no more sickness, sorrow, despair, physical pain??
2 Corinthians 5:6–8 NIV
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
This verse can bring us so much hope to know that as soon as we die, we are in the presence of the Lord, not a moment later.
This debunks any view that there is a purgatory or place that we go in between our death.
Our physical body lays “asleep” so to speak in the earth, but our souls go to be with the Lord at the moment of our death.
So, for those grieving about your loved ones who have died and were believers, you have nothing to worry about- if they trusted in Christ, they are in the presence of the Lord as I speak.
That is a truth from Scripture.
This is what Paul was trying to explain to the Thessalonians.
After Paul lays down the central truth in verses 13-14 that we have a “certain hope” he moves on to explain what happens to those who are still alive at Christ’s Return.
Paul gives a disclaimer in verse 15 and says, what I’m about to tell you guys is not something from my own imagination.
It is a word that the Lord gave me, which is also nothing different than what’s already been written about, it is in line with the rest of Scripture.
Jesus taught on the end times in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 17 and that is what Paul was referring to.
The “word from the Lord” that Paul was bringing to these believers was to bring clarity and peace, I believe it will also bring us the same as we understand this passage more.
Paul assured them that those believers who had died before them and who were alive now would be included in this glorious, transformation and rapture:
1 Corinthians 12:13 NIV
For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
1 John 3:2 NIV
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Paul then goes on to explain the order of events to happen in verses 16-17.
Verse 16:
Christ will descend from heaven and bring with Him those who have fallen asleep, or those who have already died.
These are those believers mentioned also in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8...
2 Corinthians 5:6–8 NIV
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Then Paul says there will be a shout, the voice of an archangel and a trumpet.
Not a bugle playing taps, a trumpet blast!
Chuck Swindoll says, “This will be a wake up call to those who sleep, a calling for those alive and warning to unbelievers who are oblivious to “the day of the Lord”.
Next week we will talk more on the subject of “The day of the Lord” when we come to chapter 5.
So, what Paul is essentially saying here is that things will get real when you hear the voice of the archangel and the trumpet sound.
We see the full concept of the rapture in verse 17 when we read the word ”caught up”.
In the greek we see the word rapio, which is where we get the word rapture but it is the describing word for “snatching away” of the church.
Regardless of which view we take on regarding the rapture, the event is certain to happen.
Paul brings the Thessalonians back to reality on this earth when he says in verse 18 to “comfort one another with these words.”
There is so much anxiety and fear for many about death, but this should not be the case for believers.
We often hear the phrase “I’m sorry for your loss” when someone dies but if the person was a believer that died, they are not lost, we know exactly where they are!
So, here are the truths that Paul tells the believers at Thessalonica to comfort one another with:
There is hope and promise of resurrection when we die, and we will see our loved ones again, who have trusted Christ as their Savior.
We have the hope of getting rid of our physical, earthly bodies and receiving new glorified bodies in the same way that Jesus did. AMEN!
And there is a certain hope for us, often referred to as a “blessed certain hope” that those who are alive... will be raptured, at Christ Returns.
The question we must ask ourselves today is;
Knowing about our future, how does that affect how we live today?
Are there relationships we need to make right?
Will we be more faithful and intentional with ourselves and our children, and help them grow in God’s Word, and get plugged in to the body here at FCC?
Should we be serving and using the gifts that God has given us more intentionally to encourage the body of Christ and for the glory of God?
Are there conversations we need to have regarding presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ to our neighbors, co workers, friends or family members so they can be saved from eternal separation from God at their death?
Here are a few practical things that pastor Chuck Swindoll recommends that we should do:
Recognize our gift as believers...
Salvation is grace alone, through faith in Christ alone.
We have the promise of resurrection from our old life and sin, and we have the promise and hope of a final resurrection at Christ’s Return.
2 Timothy 1:9–10 NIV
He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
2. Resist a corrupt lifestyle, everyday.
We will fail and sin but we need to repent ask for forgiveness and move on to where we need to be- loving and serving the Lord.
James 4:7 NIV
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
3. Look up with hope in our great God and Savior.
Revelation 21:5 NIV
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Sometimes we can often “hope” about a lot of things,
“…that things will turn out better next time.”
“…for a better world.”
“…people will change in our lives.”
“…to win the lottery.”
We hope in a wishful thinking kind of way, but this is a worldly way of thinking.
No matter how bad things seem here on earth, for the believer, we have a certain blessed hope and we don’t need to worry about the future.
Hope is an extension of faith.
I love what author and pastor Jack Hayford said, “Faith is the present possession of grace, hope is confidence in grace’s future accomplishment.”
Are you living with purpose in this certain hope?
If not pray right now, that the Lord would instill confidence in you in this area so that you can live in the freedom and joy that He’s called you to live in.
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