“Ready or Not, Here I Come! – 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-13

As a child did you love to play hide and seek?   Over the Christmas holidays I enjoyed watching my nieces and nephew play and was reminded of this timeless game that I loved as a kid.  I observed and remembered the one who is “it” would close their eyes and count to 50 or 100 so that all the others could hide. I got tickled as I noticed the one counting cheat a little bit as he would peep around and then you could hear him count, “One, two, three, and so on.” Then you would hear him scream out, “Ready or not here I come!”

Little did I realize as a child how much this fun game paralleled the second coming of Jesus Christ! Paul reminds the church of Thessalonica and us today about the importance of being ready.

  1. Christ Will Return Suddenly

1 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you,
2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ is one of the most repeated teachings in all of Scripture

Paul was well aware of this and he explained his readers should be perfectly aware that Jesus was coming again. As a matter of fact, he told them that he shouldn’t even have to tell them again. It should be obvious. It is kind of like the story of a tourist driving through West Texas who stopped at a gas station and observed a piece of rope dangling from a sign labeled “Weather Forecaster.” “How can you possibly tell the weather with a piece of rope?” the tourist wanted to know. “It’s simple,” was the droll answer. “When the rope swings back and forth, it’s windy, when it drips, it’s raining, when it’s white, it’s snowing and when it’s gone… tornado!”

There are simply some things that should be obvious without even asking. The imminent return of Jesus Christ is one of those things.

The question is not “if Jesus will return?” but “when will he return?” Paul answered this question by basically saying, “No one knows.” He explained this by describing the time of Jesus return as a thief in the night. Just as a thief plans his entry at an uncertain time when least expected, so will be the coming of the Son of God. Jesus Himself said in (Matt. 24:35) “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” And later He said in (Matt 24:44) Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him.”

Certain Judgement upon those not Ready

3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

Paul refers to the Second Coming of Christ as the “Day of the Lord.” Throughout scripture the “Day of the Lord” was the designation of that latter time in history when God would pour out His wrath on the ungodly. When the Lord Jesus Christ comes to rapture His people, then soon after our Lord will begin to pour out His judgements upon then earth in a time which we refer to as the Great Tribulation.

The tragedy of this day is that so many will be unprepared. And not only will they be unprepared they will actually be deceived and actively deceiving others as they cry out “Peace and safety” while thinking there is no danger at all when in fact destruction is immediately upon them.

  1. Christ will Return, be Ready.

 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.  7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.

As a soldier is commanded to “stay alert” on his post, so must we as Christians. Paul instructs us to “watch” (gregario) which means to stay awake or be vigilant. His command was in the present tense which means this must be a continual practice of the Christian. It’s a matter of attitude. A Roman soldier would be put to death for falling asleep on his watch. The outcome could be just as fatal for the person not constantly looking for the return of Christ.

We must live daily with the Discipline of Self-Control

Paul is warning us that we must not allow anything within our lives that will influence our moral alertness. Just as alcoholic beverages will greatly influence and inhibit a person’s abilities to focus and make important decisions, sin will affect one’s ability to make moral decisions. A person does not become drunk with just one drink, but one drink leads to two and then to three. Slowly the drinker becomes drunk without even noticing it and all of his senses become blurred making him a danger to himself and also to others. In the same way, if we do not control the sin in our lives, we will soon become so overcome by its effects that we are oblivious to spiritual matters and therefore unaware of and unconcerned about the imminent return of Christ. As a drunkard who is passed out and oblivious to the world. so is the uncontrolled sinner spiritually passed out.

We must live daily with the Protection of God’s Armor

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

I heard a pastor share about his dad who was in the Navy during WWII and served on a destroyer ship in the South Pacific. While on the ship one of their strict commands was to always be combat ready which meant even when you took a shower you must keep your gear nearby. Yet, there would be sometimes weeks they would not see another ship or plane and during these times they would become a little loose in their readiness. Then one morning his dad and some of his buddies where showering when the air-raid siren went off and were all called to immediately man their stations. The only problem was they had no clothes. As his dad ran out of the shower a helmet was slapped on his head and he had to run immediately to his post as an artillery loader with nothing but a helmet on.  He said those spent shells were hot on his feet and legs as he danced around them. Can you imagine the looks on the enemy pilot’s faces when they looked on the ship with naked men manning the guns?” He found out quickly that not being ready had some pretty tough consequences.

9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (NIV)

There is peace knowing that we are ready for the return of Christ. We can look for Christ’s coming with excitement and expectancy, instead of fear and dread.

In the 1980’s when I was a young believer still in high school, I would listen to the Christian Radio station and there was a song by Larry Norman that I would like to leave us with.  Here are the lyrics:

Life was filled with guns and war
And everyone got trampled on the floor
I wish we’d all been ready

Children died the days grew cold
A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold
I wish we’d all been ready

There’s no time to change your mind
The Son has come and you’ve been left behind

A man and wife asleep in bed
She hears a noise and turns her head, He’s gone
I wish we’d all been ready

Two men walking up a hill
One disappears and one’s left standing still
I wish we’d all been ready

There’s no time to change your mind
The Son has come and you’ve been left behind

Are you ready?

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

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Differing Beliefs about the Rapture

I admit there are different views of when the rapture occurs.  All beliefs discussed here have biblical validity and we shouldn’t fight or argue about which belief is best.  The most important truth to remember is that Jesus is returning in power to take His church (believers) with Him to heaven for all eternity!   Our part is to be watchful and ready.   Are you ready for Jesus to return?

The return of Jesus and end times is known in theological terms as Eschatology, the study of last things.

In eschatology, it is important to remember that almost all Christians agree on these three things:

  1. There is coming a time of Great Tribulation such as the world has never seen.
  2. After the Great Tribulation, Christ will return to establish His millennial kingdom on earth.
  3. There will be Rapture; when Jesus returns to take His bride/church to be with him in Heaven, John 14:1-3. When our earthly bodies are transformed or resurrected into heavenly bodies 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; when Jesus returns with a trumpet of the archangel and all believers are caught up in the air to meet the Lord in the air to be with him for all eternity! 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

The question that causes differing opinions is, “when does the Rapture occur in relation to the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord?”

Through the years three main convictions have emerged concerning the timing of the Rapture: Pre-tribulation view (the belief that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation begins), Mid-tribulation view (the belief that the Rapture will occur at the midpoint of the Tribulation), and Post-tribulation view (the belief that the Rapture will occur at the end of the Tribulation). This post deals mainly with the pre-tribulation view, which I adhere to.

Belief in Pretribulation Rapture teaches that the Rapture occurs before the Tribulation starts. At that time, the church will meet Christ in the air, and then sometime after that the Antichrist is revealed and the Tribulation begins. In other words, the Rapture and Christ’s Second Coming (to set up His kingdom) are separated by at least seven years. According to this view, the church does not experience any of the Tribulation.

Scripturally, the Pre-tribulation view has much to commend it. For example, the church is not appointed to wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:9-105:9), and believers will not be overtaken by the Day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:1-9). The church of Philadelphia was promised to be kept from “the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world” (Revelation 3:10). Note that the promise is not preservation through the trial but deliverance from the hour, that is, from the time period of the trial.

The Pretribulation view also finds support in what is not found in Scripture. The word “church” appears nineteen times in the first three chapters of Revelation, but, significantly, the word is not used again until chapter 22. In other words, in the entire lengthy description of the Tribulation in Revelation, the word church is noticeably absent. In fact, the Bible never uses the word “church” in a passage relating to the Tribulation.

The Pretribulation view is the only theory which clearly maintains the distinction between Israel and the church and God’s separate plans for each. The seventy “sevens” of Daniel 9:24 are decreed upon Daniel’s people (the Jews) and Daniel’s holy city (Jerusalem). This prophecy makes it plain that the seventieth week (the Tribulation) is a time of purging and restoration for Israel and Jerusalem, not for the church.

Also, the Pretribulation view has historical support. From John 21:22-23, it would seem that the early church viewed Christ’s return as imminent, that He could return at any moment. Otherwise, the rumor would not have persisted that Jesus would return within John’s lifetime. Imminence, which is incompatible with the other two Rapture theories, is a key tenet of the Pretribulation view.

And the Pretribulation view seems to be the most in keeping with God’s character and His desire to deliver the righteous from the judgment of the world. Biblical examples of God’s salvation include Noah, who was delivered from the worldwide flood; Lot, who was delivered from Sodom; and Rahab, who was delivered from Jericho (2 Peter 2:6-9).

One perceived weakness of Pretribulation View is its relatively recent development as a church doctrine, not having been formulated in detail until the early 1800s. Another potential weakness is that Pretribulation view splits the return of Jesus Christ into two “phases”—the Rapture and the Day of the Lord—whereas some argue that the Bible does not clearly delineate phases.

Another difficulty facing the Pretribulation view is the fact that there will obviously be saints in the Tribulation (Revelation 13:720:9). The Pre-tribulation people answer this by distinguishing the saints of the Tribulation from the church of the New Testament. Believers alive at the Rapture will be removed before the Tribulation, but there will be those who will come to Christ during the Tribulation.

Some point to Jesus’ statement in John 6:40 as posing a difficulty to Pre-tribulation view: “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” Jesus promises believers a resurrection “at the last day,” but the Pre-tribulation view has believers being raised at the rapture, at least seven years before the Christ’s second coming. The answer to this involves a general use of the word day—the end times, called “the last day,” will span the entire time from the Rapture to the Day of the Lord  coming. Also, the rapture will mark the end of the church age and thus is “the last day” of this dispensation.

And a final weakness of the Pretribulation view is shared by the other two views namely, the Bible does not give an explicit time line concerning future events. Scripture does not expressly teach one view over another, and that is why we have diversity of opinion concerning the end times and some variety on how the related prophecies should be harmonized.

Again we shouldn’t fight or argue about which belief is best.  The most important truth to remember is that Jesus is returning in power to take His church (believers) with Him to heaven for all eternity!   Our part is to be watchful and ready.   Are you ready for Jesus to return?

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church

Facebook: Upwards Church

Addition sources:
https://www.gotquestions.org/pretribulationism.html
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The Rapture of the Church – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

What does the word “rapture” mean?

 Rapture- the belief that both living and dead believers will ascend into heaven to meet Jesus Christ at the Second Coming.  Britannica.com

Where does the word “rapture” come from? 

The term “rapture” comes from 1 Thessalonians 4:17, translated “caught up.” The Greek word is harpazo, which means “to snatch or take away.”  When Jerome translated the Greek into the Latin bible called the Vulgate, he used the Latin word “rapturo,” where we get the word rapture.

Why is The Rapture Important?

The rapture of the church is not an incidental but a fundamental doctrine of the New Testament. It is the greatest hope that Christ gave to the church.  Jesus encouraged His followers to the great hope that He was “preparing a place for you and I will come back to take you to be with me.”  (John 14:1-3) The biblical writers speak of it as an “encouragement” (1 Thessalonians 4:18) and a “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

Have you noticed a loss of hope lately? In America we have technology, food and entertainment at our fingertips, but something that is fading away from our American culture is hope. Can you see the symptoms? All around are people struggling with worry, fear, anxiety and drug abuse; we see lots of division and unrest in our country.

Do you have hope? 1 Thessalonians 4:12-18 gives us a great deal of hope. It starts out talking about one of the most hopeless situations in the world – when someone you love dies. And God here gives us hope. We can hang on with patient expectation, and the Apostle Paul tells us how.

Let’s read this passage…

13Brothers, 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. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

Do you see how that first verse describes so many? To be ignorant about those who fall asleep means that you have no clue what happens to a person after he or she dies. To grieve like the rest of men who have no hope.

When someone you love dies and you can’t believe it, you’re in shock and your whole world is turned upside down. How do you deal with that that’s not like the rest of the world? How do you have hope?

Here’s how – verse 14 – it starts with believing in Jesus Christ – We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” This section is talking about Christ’s 2nd Coming and look who’s coming with Jesus: “Those who have fallen asleep in him.” That’s your Mom or Dad or loved one that died in Christ. The Bible uses that term “fallen asleep” for those who die believing in Jesus Christ.

What will happen…Verse 16: 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.

Why do we (as Christians) have hope when a loved one dies? Because that person is with Jesus and will be resurrected!  What will that look like, rising from the dead? 1 Corinthians 15: 52-53

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 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. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

And so very quickly, in a flash, that loved one you cared about that died that person very quickly is resurrected, in a flash, in a twinkling of an eye. And now that mom or dad or brother or sister of yours that is alive again looks different – “immortal and imperishable.”

Hope is knowing that, that person who died will come back again, as an indestructible, immortal person. And then what? “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.”

Do you believe this? Do you realize that great things are waiting for us in our future? Our culture is losing hope, but we have it. Our culture doesn’t know how to process the death of a loved one. But we do. Our culture doesn’t know how to deal with it when life gets difficult or painful or challenging. But we do. We have great expectations.

  • We believe that Jesus died and rose again…
  • We believe we too will be raised!
  • We believe that He is bringing loved ones with Him!
  • We believe that He is coming back for His Church!
  • We believe that He has a home prepared for us!

Let’s not keep this hope to ourselves. Let’s share it with others. Because the world needs it.

Darrell

www.Upwards.Church

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Introduction to 1 Thessalonians

In our day of intense interest in end times and what will happen in future we find some answers in the letters to the Thessalonian church.

“You won’t learn unless you ask questions!” Countless teachers and parents have explained that truth to children as they begin their educational experience. Those who desire to train others and impart knowledge don’t mind responding to queries. Questions help them know what students are thinking and learning. Those who don’t verbalize their doubts, voice their concerns, or seek to clarify what they have heard often harbor misunderstanding, go the wrong way, or live in ignorance.

Paul, master teacher, also felt like a father to believers in the churches he had planted on his missionary journeys. In both roles, he eagerly welcomed students’ questions and patiently responded. With limited time in each location, however, Paul could not cover every topic, resolve every conflict, or answer every question, so he wrote letters to his beloved churches. Each letter had a purpose and spoke to specific needs.

Paul wrote this epistle, his first to the church at Thessalonica, to answer believers’ questions and to commend them on their faith and commitment to Christ. The Thessalonians had questions . . . and they asked them. As we read this short, personal letter, let’s too look for answers.

The Message of 1 Thessalonians: Hope and Preparation for the Second Coming.

Hope:  Paul encouraged the Thessalonian Christians by reminding them that one day all believers, both those who are alive and those who have died, will be united with Christ. Christians who die before Christ’s return have hope—the hope of the resurrection of the body and life everlasting with the Lord.

Importance for Today. All who believe in Christ will live with him forever. All those who belong to Jesus Christ—throughout history—will be present with him at his second coming. No matter how bad the situation or bleak the outlook, we can take heart, knowing that our future is secure in Christ. We can be confident that at death or at the Second Coming, we will be with loved ones who also have trusted in Christ.

Preparation for the Second Coming: No one knows the time of Christ’s return—it will come suddenly, when people least expect it. Thus, believers should live moral and holy lives, ever watchful for his coming, not neglecting daily responsibilities, but always working and living to please the Lord.

Importance for Today. The gospel is not only what we believe but also what we must live. The Holy Spirit helps us to be faithful to Christ, giving us strength to resist lust and fraud. Live as though you expect Christ’s return at any time. Don’t be caught unprepared.

Paul established the church in Thessalonica during his second missionary journey (about A.D. 51). He wrote this letter a short time later to encourage the young believers there. He wanted to assure them of his love, to praise them for their faithfulness during persecution, and to remind them of their hope—the sure return of their Lord and Savior.

Purpose:

To strengthen the Thessalonian Christians in their faith and give them the assurance of Christ’s return

Author:

Paul

Original Audience:

The church at Thessalonica

Date Written:

Approximately A.D. 51 from Corinth; one of Paul’s earliest letters

Setting:

The church at Thessalonica was very young, having been established only two or three years before this letter was written. The Thessalonian Christians needed to mature in their faith. In addition, there was a misunderstanding concerning Christ’s second coming—some thought Christ would return immediately; thus, they were confused when their loved ones died because they expected Christ to return beforehand. Also, believers were being persecuted.

Key Verse:

“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” (4:14).

Key People:

Paul, Timothy, Silas

Key Place:

Thessalonica

Special Features:

Paul received from Timothy a favorable report about the Thessalonians. However, Paul wrote this letter to correct their misconceptions about the resurrection and the second coming of Christ.

 

www.Upwards.Church

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Sources:
 Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 2039.
Bruce B. Barton et al., Life Application Bible Commentary – 1 & 2 Thessalonians, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1999), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “1 Thessalonians”.

 

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