Sunday, March 26, 2017
The Church: A 9-Part Series
The Rapture of the Church - Looking Forward to That Day
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
What are you looking forward to in life? What goals have you set and how are those goals affecting the way you live life?
Isn’t it amazing how our hopes and dreams determine the choices we make in life—determine the sacrifices we are willing to make—determine the way we spend our money and our time.
We fix our eyes on a desired future and we invest ourselves toward that objective.
ILL: When a young couple comes to my office to plan their wedding, everything in their lives is revolving around their future together. It is great to see a young couple in love and filled with hopeful expectations about tomorrow. Some people are looking forward to finishing school. Their lives are filled with hours of study and homework and reports.
Because of the envisioned future, they discipline themselves toward that end. Some anticipate a better job. Some anticipate raising a family. Some are planning for retirement. They invest time and other resources toward those events in their lives. And what a joy it is when those events come to be.
The future we anticipate—the hope we set before us—powerfully influences the way we live—the way we invest our time and energy—the way we conduct our lives. That’s why our attitude concerning the Coming of the Lord is so very important.
In our text, Paul is explaining that event to the Christians at Thessalonica. He is clearing up misunderstandings and establishing them in truth—with two essential objectives.
First - to bring comfort to those who have lost loved ones.
Second - to encourage the believers about Jesus’ return.
He begins in 1 Thess. 4:13 with these words, “But I do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep...”
“those who are asleep” are the Christians who had died. He’s just using a common metaphor to express that—in the same way we say a person “has passed away”. We mean they died but the idiom communicates it in a more sensitive way.
What will happen when Jesus returns?
A. Verse 16 - “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”
At some point in the course of human history the Father is going to say to the Son—Now! Now is the time to take your Bride. Now is the time to reap the fruit of your sufferings. Now is the time to bring your people home.
There is a glorious NOW coming for you and me and all those who love His appearing. There is coming an awesome climatic moment in the history of mankind.
“For the Lord Himself...” In the Greek, the “Himself” is prominent and emphatic. We won’t just meet an agent of the King. We won’t just be greeted by a host of angels. The King Himself will come!
At His ascension in Acts 1 Jesus gave instruction to the disciples and then ascended into the clouds right before their eyes. As they stood dumbfounded by what they had just seen, two angels appeared and said to them in verse 11:
"Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."
“...in like manner,” means literally in a glorified body visible to the disciples.
ILL: At first those kinds of details may not seem all that important. But I remember years ago many of us who watched the events unfold in Waco with David Khoresh’s group and saw what kind of tragedy can come out of error concerning the Lord’s return. That cult gained a large following with false predictions about the coming of the Lord.
Why did people fall for it?
2 Timothy 4:3-4 “ For the time is coming whe people will not endure sound teaching, but have itching ears they will accumulate forthemselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
If we’re not established in truth, we’re vulnerable to lies. Some people will follow anything that sounds spiritual and exciting.
The coming of the Lord will not be some street person wearing a white sheet. It will not be some eastern guru claiming to be divine. For the believer, the coming of the Lord will be absolutely unmistakable.
When you get caught up in the air with the Lord you will know something has happened. It won’t just be a spiritual experience. It will be a total transformation from mortality to immortality.
Critical Events of the Rapture
(a) Jesus will personally come
Vs. 16a “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command (shout)”
This is an authoritative command like military officers give their subordinates; like Jesus gave at the tomb when he shouted “Lazarus, come forth.” Only this time it won’t just be Lazarus coming forth. It will be all the dead in Christ and all who are alive and remain. Lazarus was raised in mortality. But we will be raised in immortality.
1 Cor. 15:51-57 “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed -- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(b) Voice of the Archangel will accompany Jesus’ descent.
Vs. 16b “...with the voice of an archangel...”
It is believed that Michael the Archangel, leader of the army of God, will be leading all of heaven in celebrating this great event—a shout of triumph because of the great victory at the coming of Christ, ending thousands of years of spiritual conflict with Satan.
Mark 8:38 “when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
(c) The Trumpet call of the God
Vs. 16c “...and with the sound of the trumpet of God.”
The trumpet blast was used to gather God’s people at Mt. Sinai in Numbers 19. It signaled the victory at Jericho in Joshua 6. It was blown when Solomon was crowned king in 1 Kings 1. It signaled the beginning of the year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:9). Trumpets in OT proclaimed the Lord’s presence.
(d) The deceased Christians will be physically resurrected.
Vs. 16d “And the dead in Christ will rise first.”
The doctrine of the resurrection is central to Christian faith, including the resurrection of Christ Himself and, ultimately, believers who have died previously.
One may ask, “How can the dead been raised when their remains in some cases totally scattered or the only thing left are bones?” This is not difficult for a supernatural God who created the world.
Gen. 2:7 – “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
Clearly the resurrection will be physical in which bodily existence will be restored and the resurrected bodies of Christians will be like that of Christ; incorruptible and immortal and yet like Christ, our bodies will be flesh and bone and recognizable.
(e) The living Christians will be “caught up
Verse 17 - “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
ILL: Words of an old gospel song, “There’s going to be a meeting in the air, In the sweet, sweet by and by I’m going to meet you-meet you over there, somewhere beyond the sky, such singing we will hear, never heard by mortal ear T’will be glorious I do declare. And God’s own Son will be the leading One, In that meeting in the air.”
That’s what Paul is talking about here. Verse 15 “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.”
You and I have an appointment for the most awesome meeting ever—a meeting in the air first and foremost with our coming King and Bridegroom—but also with all our loved ones in the Lord, living or dead.
This is the great reunion God has prepared for us. “And thus shall we always be with the Lord.”