Year 2 Day 348
Read - 1 Thessalonians 4v13-18
Message - Scott Woodburn
What's your thinking about the Antichrist? How do you interpret the millennium? What will happen when Christ returns? Your answers to these questions will reveal your eschatology. Did you know you had an eschatology? If at the very least you think that Christ is coming back then you absolutely hold an eschatological opinion.
Firstly, lets be clear, eschatology is a hard word to say. I frequently get my tongue in a mess when pronouncing this word, so let's break it down...S-KA-TALL-O-GEE. Got it? Good. So what is it? Eschatology is a study of the things that come last. The word is two greek words pulled together. "Eschatos" meaning "last" and "Logy" meaning "the study of". So when we think about eschatology we are considering the events that will mark the last things of human history.
The Thessalonians were a people with a well developed eschatology. They believed that Christ was coming back and so they were concerned about what would happen to those among them who died before Christ's return. Would they be lost? Would they miss Jesus? Absolutely not. Paul writes and informs his brothers and sisters that Christians grieve their dead but they do so with a blessed hope that the pagan world doesn't share (v13).
What is that hope? We believe that Jesus died and was raised again to life (v14) and through faith in Christ, those who have died before His return will be brought with Him on the final day (v14b). Let's break that down a wee bit. Human history will end at the return of Christ. The disciples were told that Jesus who ascended up into heaven would return the same way (Acts 1v11). Jesus told us to expect His return even though He Himself did not know the day or the hour (Mark 13v32). The final day is a reality and when Christ comes He will come in judgement (Matthew 25v31).
Eschatology isn't just head knowledge about interesting stuff. If you are reading this as an enemy of Christ then please understand that He will return, you will be judged and you will be lost to hell if you do not repent and believe the Gospel before that final day.
Paul describes Christ's return in these very verses. Jesus will come back and every Christian who has died before His return will come with Him (v14). This is not fanciful nonsense, it is the Word of God (v15a). Paul adds that those who are still alive at Christ's return will not precede those who have died in Christ (15b). What does this mean? Paul goes on to explain.
When the final day comes, Christ Himself will descend from heaven with a trumpet blast of God (v16). There won't be anyone who will miss Christ's return. It will be a momentous event and the eyes and ears of the world will be lifted from the emptiness of Facebook and Tiktok to the seriousness of the Christ the Judge. Christ Himself will speak with a mighty angelic voice and issue a command (v16). What will He command? Just as He once commanded Lazarus to come out of the grave (John 11v43) so too will Jesus command "the dead in Christ" to rise. The souls of Christians in heaven will be reunited with new bodies. Just as Jesus died and was raised to life, so too every Christian who has died will be raised never to die again.
This will come first and when the resurrection of the Christian dead is complete, living Christians will be transformed and called up to meet Christ and their brothers and sisters in the clouds (v17). So living Christians will not precede (be raised before) dead Christians. The dead in Christ will be raised first and then those Christians still alive at Christ's return. Together we will always be with Jesus.
Paul urged the Thessalonians to encourage one another with his words (v18) and we should do the same. What's so encouraging? That regardless of this world's troubles, our hope is secure. History isn't spinning out of control, Christ is coming back. The dead in Christ are safe and secure in heaven and they will stand again on the earth. Even though your body and mind are failing, in Christ you will see heaven. The sin and curse that blights this world will de dealt with when Jesus returns. Here is our blessed eschatological hope.
Christ Himself tells us “Surely I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22v20) and in response we cry "Come, Lord Jesus!"
Q101 What do we pray for in the first petition? In the first petition, which is, Hallowed be thy name,” we pray, that God would enable us, and others, to glorify him in all that whereby he maketh himself known, and that he would dispose all things to his own glory.