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Encourage One Another

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            This morning we turn our attention to a subject that has confused and divided more churches and Christians over the century then perhaps any other.  Today we are going to look at the second coming of Christ.

            As a child, our death and the second coming of Christ, it seems to me was used to “Scare us Straight.”  Churches would host a movie night, with the promise of refreshments and a good family movie.   You would come expecting a nice cartoon, instead you were confronted with scenes of death and destruction.  You remember those bait and switch movies like, Thief in the night or image of the Beast, or a real crowd pleaser, year of the Beast.  I remember setting in the pew watching the horrific action flash before my eyes, cars wreaking, planes crashing, people crying.   My palms were sweating, my stomach churning, my eyes watering.

            I would not sleep for days after one of those family friendly movies.

            I recall vividly waking in the middle of the night, and sneaking over to my parents bed room door and easing it open, so I could see them in bed and had the assurance the rapture had not happened, and I had been left behind.

            As I began to work on this message, I relived those feeling of fear, fear of losing my parents, fear of being alone, and fear of trying to survive against all odds.

            For a long time the concept of my pending death or the second coming of Christ created panic.

            However, most of us have memories of the death or second coming being used as an instrument of fear.  Preaching yelling, “you may not live to see tomorrow.”  Many of you have read books like, The Late Great Planet Earth, or more recently, the Left Behind series.

            Some of you came away from those books with a little fear.

            But that is not how Paul tells us to look at our death or the second Coming Christ.  In fact, he says, it should bring us comfort.

            Death comfort us?  Did he really mean that?

            Lets look together at what he tells us about death, and the second coming.

Look at 1 Thessalonians 4:18 “18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.”

The word encourage here in the Greek language that Paul was writing in is really two words put together.  The first word is para which means “beside of” and the second word is keleto  which mean “to call.”  So together it means to call along side, to give aid, to encourage. 

What could Paul possible say about this thing called death that would give aid to us or encourage us.

First, Your death is not the end, it is a transition.

Listen to chapter 4 verse 13, 13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.

            When Paul wrote this, people believed there was no life after death. 

            In face of death the pagan world stood in despair. They met it with grim resignation and bleak hopelessness. Aeschylus wrote, “Once a man dies there is no resurrection.” Theocritus wrote, “There is hope for those who are alive, but those who have died are without hope.” Catullus wrote, “When once our brief light sets, there is one perpetual night through which we must sleep.” On their tombstones grim epitaphs were carved. “I was not; I became; I am not; I care not.”

            Into that dark night of despair comes Paul promise of life after death. 

            It has been that promise that has lifted the church time and again.

            Martin Luther King Jr. expressed this with promise in a sermon at the funeral of the four young girls killed by a racist’s bomb in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963:

I hope you can find some consolation from Christianity’s affirmation that death is not the end. Death is not a period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to more lofty significance. Death is not a blind alley that leads the human race into a state of nothingness, but an open door which leads man into life eternal. Let this daring faith, this great invincible surmise, be your sustaining power during these trying days.

                                                                                 As Christians we rest in knowing death is not the end, it is a transition.

        That is not to say we will not experience grief, because if you love some and then loss them, you will grieve. 

            Erich Fromm the internationally renowned social psychologist and psychoanalyst was right when he said, “To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness.”

        The first thing Paul would say should encourage you, is your death is not an end, but a transition.

        Second, your death is a door way into the presence of God forever.

            Look at chapter 4 verses 16-17, 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

            Notice the flow here.  First is says the Lord himself will come down from heaven accompanied by a loud command, with the voice the archangel, and with a trumpet call of God. 

            Second, the dead in Christ will rise.  Notice, the faithful who died before us, will rise.  They will not be left out. 

            Third the faithful who are living will be caught up into clouds to meet the Lord.

            Fourth, we will be with the Lord forever.

            We will be face to face with Jesus.

            Listen to how Paul puts in another place in Corinthians.

12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.

            There is no substitute for face to face.

            Many of you remember this last year when Ginny traveled to Florida for four months.  Those four months felt like a life time.  I would talk to each day by phone.  We talked about everything, but something was still missing.

            Then, while at Pastors of Excellence, I was introduced to Skype.  In case you don’t know, Skype is this really cool software that lets you video conference for free.

            As soon as we discovered Skype, we began to video conference back and forth.

            That was better, but it still was not great.

            I remember when Eddie and I drove to Florida to pick Ginny up.  When I saw her, something happened.  We talked, and just spent time together.

            There is no substitute for face to face.

            Paul says death will usher us into the presence of Christ, and we will see him face to face.  I cannot wait to see the Lord, I have been serving all these years.  Just to talk with him and spent time with him.

            Paul says we should encourage one another with the knowledge that at the moment of death, we meet Christ face to face.

            Your death will not be an end, but a transition, and your death is a door way into the presence of God forever.

            Finally, third the certainty of death should affect how you live.

            Look down into chapter 5 verse 8.

            8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.

            Paul says we should put on the armor of God.  Because, as Christians, we are not walking in darkness.  Christ died, but he came back to life.  Because he did it, we know we will to.  That knowledge should lead us into a life of self-controll.  We should be people of faith, resting in our salvation.

            Paul reminds us in another place, 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.


Jon Courson, a Cavalry Chapel pastor, points out, “If you put on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of hope and salvation, you will constantly live in the hope that the Lord is coming soon.”

So what have found to encourage us this morning,

First, your death is not an end, it is a transition to a better place.

Second, your death is a door way into the presence of God forever.

Third, your death should affect how you live.          

This morning I have to ask you, are you ready for death.  Every man, women, girl, and boy is destined to die, and after that to face judgment.

Are you ready?






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