The Next Time He Comes
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
Read “The Next Time He Comes” Hymn
By way of introduction to our message here this morning, allow me to begin with a very advanced theological statement. A statement that contains so much heavy doctrine and truth that it very well may go over some of your heads here this morning! And that statement is this, are you ready? Jesus is coming again! Folks, I said Jesus is coming again! Now while that statement may not necessarily be, as I claimed, some advanced theological deduction, its truth remains the same; Jesus is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, coming again! What a wonderful thought that is!
I Thessalonians in which we will find our text this morning was written by the Apostle Paul and is thought to be one of his earliest epistles written either in A.D. 51 or A.D. 54. Thessalonica was a free city of Macedonia and was its largest city. Paul came to Thessalonica after his ministry in Philippi and spent about a month preaching and teaching before being driven out of town by a mob. We won’t take the time to look at it this morning but you can read Acts 17:1-9 to see the founding of the church at Thessalonica. Paul worked his way down the Greek peninsula eventually arriving in Corinth and that is where he wrote this epistle.
The obvious theme and message of the book of I Thessalonians is to strengthen the young and fragile church which Paul started at Thessalonica. The Apostle clearly seeks to encourage the young church in chapter 1. He reminds them of his appropriate decorum and counsel to them when in their midst in chapter 2. He informs them of his burden for them in chapter 3. He presents instruction and counsel as well as a framework of eschatology in chapter 4. He concludes the book with further practical injunctions and concluding remarks in chapter 5.
I Thessalonians could further be outlined as follows;
Chapter 1 – The Model Church and the three tenses of the Christian life.
Chapter 2 – The Model Servant and his reward.
Chapter 3 – The Model Brother and the Believer’s Sanctification.
Chapter 4 – The Model Walk and the Believer’s hope.
Chapter 5 – The Model Walk and the day of Jehovah.
The chapter in which we find our text, chapter 4 is broken into two parts. In the first part of chapter 4, Paul begins a list of practical injunctions for the Christian life. The last half of the chapter deals with eschatology and the Rapture in particular. It is the clearest explanation of the rapture and of Christ’s coming we have in the entire Bible.
What a blessed hope that statement provides for you and I as Christians here this morning; Jesus is coming again! What a challenge that provides for you and I as Christians here this morning; Jesus is coming again! The first time our Lord came to earth, He came as the long-awaited King, born in poverty, born in humility, born as a small baby who was living to die as the Saviour of the world; But the next time He comes, He will come unexpectedly like a thief in the night, He will come with power and authority as an avenging King on a rebellious people, He will come to judge this sinful old world, He will come to execute the wrath of God on all the disobedient that rejected Him, and for those who are His children, for those who believed on Him, for you and I here this morning if you’re saved and know Christ as your Saviour, the next time He comes, it’ll be for you and for me!
The next time He comes, it won’t be to die for the sins of this world! The next time He comes, there won’t be a Calvary! The next time He comes will begin eternity! And when He comes again, He’ll be coming for you and for me! So yes folks, Jesus is coming again! And that’s what we want to look at here this morning; the next time he comes and how to be ready!
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
After dealing with how the Believer ought to live in the first half of chapter 4, Paul now addresses a matter he evidently had not discussed before at length with his Thessalonian brethren. This was the state of departed believers, their resurrection, the Rapture, and heaven itself. Apparently, there was some confusion and perhaps even some recent deaths of some in the church as we see in verse 13.
The word translated as asleep indeed literally means sleep. However, it is clear that Paul here used the word as a euphemism for death. Quite evidently, someone in the church, dear to all, had died. Paul dealt with the matter in a delicate fashion wishing that they not be ignorant (or lacking understanding). His point was that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. Here is an important distinction for a Christian. When a loved one dies and goes to heaven, there indeed is sorrow. However, because of our blessed hope of eternal life, we need not sorrow as others which have no hope. There is sorrow, yes. But for a Christian, it is not the degree of sorrow which the world has. For them, death at best is the end. At worst, it is the entrance to hell.
But for you and I as Christians, there is no reason for us to be overly sad or scared of death, whether it be our own death or the death of someone that we love! Because if we or that person knows the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, death is but an entrance to Heaven for all of eternity with our wonderful Lord!
II Corinthians 5:8 – We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.
I Corinthians 15:54-58
Death has no hold on the believer because when Christ died on the cross of Calvary, He defeated not only this world and the Devil but death as well! Death is a defeated foe and for the Christian, is nothing to worry or be scarred about! – Death of my Grandfather Illustration.
Here in verse 14, we find two important matters that we are to notice and note. First, reference is again made to those “asleep in Jesus.” Paul here is not suggesting some sort of “soul sleep” for departed Christians. It clearly once again is a euphemism for death. The distinction is of the peace and blessedness of rest in comparison to the torment of hell.
Revelation 14:13 – And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
The clear contextual position of the NT is that born again believers upon death are absent from the body and present with the Lord as we saw in II Corinthians 5:8. Furthermore, Revelation 4 and forward all refer to departed saints being alive, conscious, and present with the Lord in heaven prior to His return. Secondly, Paul also refers to God bringing these with Him when He comes. Clearly, it is Jesus who will return. Here, He is called God indicating His Deity. Also, when He returns, those dead in Christ will be with Him.
Paul now begins to dig deeper into the return of Christ. The word translated as coming here is the word often used for the return of our Lord. The word translated as prevent has the sense to come before or to precede. In other words, those of us who are alive when the rapture takes place will not precede the dead in Christ during His return and we see why in verse 16.
The return of Christ at the Rapture is now described in detail and such a description is found nowhere else in the Bible. Come that day, He will descend from heaven with a shout. This word shout has the sense of an order (or command) such as a commander might order his troops and though not specified, that command might be “Come up hither” as seen in Revelation 4:1.
This is in conjunction with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. The picture is this: the commander-in-chief shouts forth his order to come up hither. It is repeated word for word by His chief aide, the archangel, and then signaled by a trumpeter to the troops in the field, the church on earth. Such custom has been a common practice in the military since the beginning of time. A similar practice remains a common custom on the command-bridge of ships, both military and civilian.
And at that instant, the dead in Christ shall rise first. The greater thrust of this passage is dealing with what will happen to the dead in Christ. Here, Paul makes clear when the Lord returns, the dead in Christ will be resurrected first. Their souls and spirits in heaven, present with the Lord, will come with Jesus at His coming. Meanwhile, their bodies have long been in their graves. At that moment, at the trump signaling their resurrection, the bodies of those dead in Christ will be miraculously and instantaneously resurrected from their graves. Their souls and spirits will then be reunited with their now glorified bodies to ever live with the Lord. This is what we call the First Resurrection.
I Corinthians 15:51-53
Up until this point, the focus has been on the dead in Christ. The thought now shifts to we which are alive and remain, it shifts to the church still in this world at the time of Christ’s coming again. The word translated as caught up has the sense to be ‘seized’ or ‘snatched out.’ And while the word rapture does not appear in the Bible, the concept is based upon this word and its meaning. The place unto which we will be caught up unto to meet the Lord is in the clouds. It is in the air of the atmospheric heavens. From thence shall we ever be with the Lord. Thus, for all who are in Christ, both those already departed as well as those alive and remaining, the day is coming when we will ever be with the Lord.
And finally in verse 18 because of the hope we have as Christians in the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul urges believers to comfort one another with these words. And folks if there ever was a day in which Christians could use the comfort of the coming Christ, it’s the day in which we live! A day where we see wars, carnality, selfishness, anger, drunkenness, addiction, jealousy, bitterness, envy, gossip, rebellion, wrath, envy, strife, disobedience, wrong influences, sorrows, illness, pain, tears, lost loved ones, broken homes, broken families, and people with no hope on an almost constant basis!
It seems as if things just keep getting worse and worse with no hope in sight! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, truly we are not yet in the sweet by and by just yet but still the nasty now and now! But as Christians, we do have hope and it’s in the returning Christ to this earth someday! And we see that right here in our text this morning! Just look at what we have to look forward to when He returns someday!
There will be a resurrection, there will be a rescue, and there will be a reunion! The resurrection of course will be of those that have gone on before us, the rescue will be of those of us that remain in this sinful old world when Christ returns, and the reunion will be in my opinion the greatest event of all three.
Because not only will be reunited with friends and loved ones who have gone on before but we will also be reunited with our Lord and our Saviour! Folks one day, we shall see Jesus just as He is! We will see the One Who loved us more than He did His Own life. We will see the One Who died for us on the cross. We will see our Redeemer. The Friend Who has stuck closer than a brother. We will see the crucified, risen Lord. We will see Him there! What an awesome thought to rejoice in here this morning!
What a clear wonderful picture of the coming again of Christ here in our text! Yes, Jesus is coming again but if we believe that He is, than there are a couple of “must dos”, that as Christians, we should be engaged in! So in closing here this morning, that’s what I’d like for us to see, how to be ready for His coming again!
1. We Should Be Looking For Him
II Timothy 4:8
2. We Should Be Living Like He Might Come At Anytime
I John 3:1-3
3. We Should Be Loving The Lost And Preaching The Gospel
The thought this morning is a simple one; Jesus is coming again! And the next time that he comes, it won’t be to die and there’ll be no Calvary! The next time He comes, it’ll be as Lord of Lords and King of Kings! The next time He comes will see the start of all eternity! The next time He comes, He’ll be coming for me and for you if you know Him as your Lord and Saviour!
When Jesus comes; we’re going home! When Jesus comes; all the pain, sorrow, separation, suffering, sin, and heartache will end immediately. When Jesus comes; we will leave this world behind and fly away to a better place to spend eternity with Him and all those He redeemed when He died on Calvary. When Jesus comes; we will be caught up, carried away, and completely changed!
But until that day, be found as a Christian looking for His return, living as if He could come at any minute, and love those who lost sharing the wonderful life changing news, Jesus saves! And if you’re here this morning and know not Christ, accept Him today as your Lord and Saviour so you to may have the same hope of a soon again coming Christ!
Coming again, coming again! May be morning, may be noon, May be evening and Must be soon! Coming again, coming again! O what a wonderful day it will be; Jesus is coming again!