This morning, we come finally to the great text of 1 Thessalonians 4:13 through 18. Please open your Bible to that particular passage of Scripture. This is, of course, familiar to most of us as believers. We know it as the Rapture passage, the passage which describes the catching away of the church.
- It is in many ways the favorite text in this wonderful epistle that we’ve been studying at Impact. And finally, we have arrived at the long-awaited time to discuss this great event. As we approach the text, I’ve entitled it: “What Happens to Christ Followers who Have Died?”
- I’m often asked that by many different people. But mostly it is Christians who ask. Questions like: after we die, do we go directly to heaven? Or, what happens to our bodies? The details of those kinds of questions are very, very important to us, and they can be troubling if we don’t know the answer. We want to know what happens after we die, and we would like to know what happens to the bodies of those we love when they go into the grave. Those are pressing issues and they were equally pressing issues on the young believers in Thessalonica.
II. Issue: What Happens to Christians Who Die?
13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died (some translations see Asleep here, it is an ancient word for cemetery.) so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.
- The Thessalonians are Worried that their friends who have died will not be at the Great Gathering.
1. Remember now, those to whom Paul wrote this letter had only been in Christ a matter of a few months and they had only had just a few weeks, really, of exposure to Paul’s ministry so they were very much babes.
2 And they had become very troubled about this issue of what happens to Christians when they die. They believed certainly in life after death because it says in chapter 1 verse 3 that they had hope. There’s no question that Paul had told them about eternal life because he preached to them the gospel, and they believed it and they turned from idols. And so, we know they knew about eternal life. They knew that salvation was synonymous with living forever with God in heaven. And they also knew about the coming of Jesus, that Jesus was going to someday return and gather all His people together and take them to be with Him. They knew about that great gathering event.
- Paul is helping them find HOPE in Grief.
- Paul is reminding them of all that will happen so they will not grieve like pagans, but rather have hope.
- Paul says they turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven. Now, there you have the three dimensions of their salvation: the past, turning from the idols of the past; the present, serving a living and true God; and the future, waiting for His Son from heaven. This was a waiting group.
- Also in Chapter 2 verse 19, Paul refers to them as his hope and joy and crown in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming. So, they must have known that the coming was something very special. First of all, they would meet Jesus and they were waiting for Him. Secondly, they would be the crown and joy and rejoicing of the apostle and they were thrilled about that.
II. HOPE: JESUS’ DEATH, RESURRECTION & RETURN
14 “For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. 15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died.”
HOPE A: Jesus’ Death and Resurrection
HOPE B: God will Bring Back Believer’s Who Have Died
HOPE C: The Dead in Christ with Rise First
III. ACTION: THE DAY OF RAPTURE
ACTION A: The Lord’s Coming from Heaven
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.” (16a)
? Angels Shouting, God Making Noise!!!
Must have been a great scene. Unbelievable.
ACTION B: The Christ Follower’s Body will Meet the Lord
“First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves.” (16b)
- Since the Christ Follower’s Spirit is already with Jesus, his Body will Rise from the Grave. (The body which God brought back with Him in verse 14 above)
- This Body will Meet Jesus and our Spirits to be Made New in Heaven.
ACTION C: The Living Believers will Meet the Lord
“Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (17a)
ACTION D: All Christ Followers will Live Forever with Him
“Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.” (17b-18)
IV. CONCLUSION: The Day of the Lord
Paul quickly shows the other side of the story. The Thessalonians also knew about The Day of the Lord. They knew about a time of coming judgment on the ungodly. They knew then that when Jesus came He would gather them to be with Him. And He would also judge the ungodly. They were waiting for Jesus to come. They were waiting for the gathering time.
So Paul quickly He talks about those who have rejected Jesus. I am speaking on it today because I wanted you to hear both sides of the ending. In Chapter 5 verses 1-3, Paul gives a couple main points about the extensive subject, “The Day of the Lord.”
This phrase is in the Bible more than 20 times and it is referring to the Day will the Lord returns and judges the sinners. Those who are in the dark and do not walk in the light.
- Unexpected, Like a Thief in the Night
“Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.” (1-2)
- The Day of the Lord: Will Come Unexpected
“Yes, the day of the Lord will be dark and hopeless,
without a ray of joy or hope.” Amos 5:20
“But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.” 2 Peter 3:10
2. The Day of the Lord: Will be too Late
“When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. “And there will be no escape.” (3)
And please don’t read these last verses and forget the ones above. We have Joy and Hope and Resurrection and a great Gathering with the Lord if we know Him, and for those who don’t know him comes the dark and hopeless and without a ray of hope.
It’s our pick.