The Baptist Pillar © Brandon Bible Baptist Church 1992-Present www.baptistpillar.com
"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Lesson: I Thess. 4:13-18
Intro: Without a doubt, the believer in Christ has a glorious future awaiting him–Rom. 8:18; I Cor. 2:9. It is thrilling to be able to read the Bible and be assured of events that are still future. The Bible is the only book that accurately unfolds the past, present, and future.
Notice carefully Paul says: "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord..." (I Thess. 4:15). We must carefully look to the Word of God that reveals everything we need to know about our future and the return of Christ. The authority of God’s Word gives us the assurance and comfort we need. Just what does the future hold for the believer? Here are five fundamental facts concerning the believer’s future:
I. The Return of the Lord vs.14-15
It is claimed that 1 out of every 30 verses in the Bible refers to Christ’s second coming. To every 1 mention of His first coming, the second coming is mentioned 8 times. there are at least 318 references to the second coming in the 216 chapters of the N. T.
We have a 3-fold witness of the coming of Christ:
1) It was promised by Christ Himself - John. 14:2-3; 21:22
2) It was declared by the angels - Acts 1:11
3) It was taught by the apostles - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, James, Jude (Matt. 24:37, 42, 44; Mk. 13:26; Lk. 21:27; I Cor. 15:51-53; Heb. 9:28; Jms. 5:7; I Pet. 1:7; 13; I John. 2:28; 3:2; Jude 14)
The coming of Christ is to be 2-fold, i.e., it will consist of two phases:
A. The Rapture - the first phase will be;
1) In the air - I Thess. 4:16-17
2) For His people - John. 14:3
3) As a Bridegroom - Matt. 25:1-13
B. The Return - the second phase will be:
1) To the earth - Zech. 14:4; Matt. 25:31
2) With His people -Zech. 14:5; Jude 14; Rev. 19:14
3) As a Judge & King - Rev. 19:11,16
Note: We believe there will be a 7-year tribulation period between the rapture of the saints and Christ’s millennial reign with His saints, as described for us in Rev. 6-18. That for which the believer awaits is the personal, literal, bodily return of Jesus Christ. This is our hope.
II. The Resurrection of the Christian Dead v. 16
1. Paul applied the word "sleep" to those believers who have already died (vs.14,15) because there will be a resurrection at Christ’s coming. (Jesus Himself used the same terminology in John. 11:11-13). But notice carefully Paul did not say it is the soul that sleeps; it is the body. At death, the soul and spirit leaves the body and the body goes to sleep and no longer functions. For the Christian, the soul and spirit goes to be with the Lord– II Cor. 5:8.
2. At the rapture, the redeemed in spirit will come "with Him" and will be reunited with a new, glorified body at the resurrection (v.14). See I Cor. 15:52-53; Phil. 3:20-21; I Jn. 3:2
3. This is called "the first resurrection" (Rev. 20:5,6) and will involve only the "dead in Christ." I cor. 15:23. There will be another resurrection (John. 5:28-29; Rev. 20:11-15) that will involve all of the unsaved and will occur more than 1,000 years after the resurrection of the saved.
4. Whether we Christians live or die, we have nothing to fear because Jesus will come either with us or for us. The fact of His return is a comfort to our hearts.
III. The Rapture of the Living Believers v.17
1. Even though the word "rapture" does not appear in the Bible, this is the literal meaning of the phrase "caught up"–to seize, carry off, to snatch out or away. The term "rapture" is derived form a Latin word which means the same thing.
2. The believers who are living on the earth when Christ returns will be "changed," snatched out of this world alive, caught up into heaven with Jesus: I Cor. 15:51-52.
3. We believe the time of Christ’s coming is represented in the Scriptures as being imminent, i.e., it could happen at any moment. Every child of God needs to be living this life on this earth with the expectancy, anticipation that Christ could come back at any day or hour: Mt. 24:44; Mk. 13:34-37; I Thess. 5;6. Note: We do not believe in a mid-trib. or post-trib. rapture, i.e., that neither any or the living saved on the earth or the church will go thru any part of the tribulation period: I Thess. 1:10; 5:9. We are pre-trib. premillennialists.
IV. The Reunion of the Saints vs.17-18
1. We will meet our Lord and Saviour in the air, in person, when He comes for us. The word "meet" carries the idea of meeting a royal, important person. What a meeting that will be!
a. It will be a glorious meeting because we will have glorified bodies and one day we will see His glory and share in it: Jn. 17:22-24; I Jn.3:2. This glory is also mentioned in Rom. 8;17-18; II Cor. 4:17.
b. It will be an everlasting meeting for "so shall we ever be with the Lord" (v.17). This was Jesus’ promise–Jonn. 14:3.
2. We will also be reunited with our Christian friends and loved ones who have died; "together with them" (v.17) is a great statement of encouragement. See II Thess. 2:1. Death is the great separator, but Jesus Christ is the great Reconciler.
V. The Reward of the Faithful
1. Our meeting with the Lord will be a time of reckoning, called the judgment seat of Christ–Rom. 14:10-12; II Cor. 5:10. One or the most solemn thoughts for the believer is that we will give and account of our lives to God.
2. Our works will be judged and rewards will be given–I Cor. 3:8, 13-15; I Pet. 1:17.
3. The basic criterion for the appraisal or our lives will be our faithfulness to God: Matt. 25:21; I Cor. 4:1-2. Therefore we are exhorted–I Cor. 15:58.
Conclusion: There is a tremendous "comfort" (v.18) for those of us who are the saved in considering the promise of the second coming of Christ. Paul related Christ’s return to salvation (I Thess. 1:9-10), to service (I Thess. 3:11-13). In this chapter, he related it to sorrow (v.13), and he shows how the doctrine of Christ return can comfort the brokenhearted and bereaved. The fact of our Lord’s return is comfort to us because we know that He will bring with Him His people who have "died in the Lord."
We should examine our own hearts to see if we are ready to meet the Lord. One mark of a true Christian is his eager looking for the coming of Jesus Christ. As we grow in the Lord, we not only look for His appearing, but we love His appearing (II Tim. 4:8).
Because we have this hope in Him, we are to keep our lives pure so that we may not be ashamed at His coming– I John. 2:28; 3:3. We as Christians have wonderful assurance and hope and a blessed future because of Christ’ promised return.
What lies ahead in your future?