Without the Resurrection There is No Hope
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Truth Taught- At the return of Christ all Christians will meet Him in the air, the dead will rise first, then the living will be changed and we will be with Jesus forevermore. Introduction- Much of chapter 4 in First Thessalonians is, as it were, a question and answer time with Paul. Could you imagine having a Q & A with the Apostle Paul? Here, he addresses two questions that the young church had. They were being misled by Judaizers and others who called themselves brothers and teachers and were only out for themselves. It seemed as though there were tension among the members and so the first question had to do with brotherly love among the congregation. It is, however, the second question I want to look to today as we look deeper into the resurrection of our Lord and ours as well. The second question had to do with what happens to those who die before our Lord returns? This concern leads Paul to teach the church all about the second coming and the resurrection of the dead. These words from Paul are to be a wonderful encouragement for the church… 1 Thessalonians 4:18 (ESV) 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. Human Need Met- As believers we need occasional reminders that what God promises will, in fact, come to pass. We need to be reminded that our deceased loved ones who also believe will share in the great reunion, as we all, together will meet our King. None will be overlooked and none left out. Today, on this resurrection Sunday, I want to look at Christ’s resurrection and then at our resurrection as well. Please hear what God has for us today at Grace Community Church… 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 (ESV) 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. 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. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Notice Paul’s pastoral concern as he truly loves and cares for the Church. He understood that their misconceptions of the afterlife and their concern for their loved ones would deeply hinder their spiritual growth, so he wants their thinking to be biblical. He doesn’t want them to go through life uninformed. His desire is to teach them the truth about their loved ones who have gone on before them. As he instructs them and us, we begin to see the vital significance of the resurrection and the cross of Christ. I love how the Apostle refers to the dead Christians that had gone on before them. He refers to them as those who are asleep. Now, he’s not talking about the Catholic doctrine of soul sleep but rather pointing the Thessalonians to the fact that they will be raised at the resurrection of the dead when Christ returns. I think the big misconception here for our Catholic friends is that they teach the soul sleeps until the resurrection. That is wrong. The souls or spirits as some might refer are not asleep at all. In fact, the souls of all believers are currently with Jesus Christ. Souls are not asleep at all. We might be able to say that the bodies are asleep and waiting for that glorious day. So Paul terms the state of the dead believers, not as dead as asleep because there will come a day when body and soul are reunited in the presences of Jesus Christ. Why does Paul say he wants those young believers to understand this? That you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. When our Christian family passes away, falls asleep, as Paul writes, we do not need to grieve as the world of pagans grieve. We can grieve but we grieve with hope. That’s Paul’s point. We can have hope while we miss them and long to see them again. Notice how much hope Paul had in this fact… Notice Paul’s confidence that when he dies he will be with the Lord… Philippians 1:21–23 (ESV) 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 2 Corinthians 5:6–8 (ESV) 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Now then, we must define what Christian hope really is. Christian hope is right in line with Christian faith… The first thing to point out is that unbelievers, those who are without Christ, have no hope… Ephesians 2:12 (ESV) 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. Christian hope is absolute belief and faith in what God has told us will happen. For God there is no time and no resistance to His will coming to pass. Christian hope believes the future will come about just as God said it would so strongly that we live in light of that belief. It’s a hope that is sure and we know it. There was a contemporary pagan philosopher of Paul’s who sent a letter of condolence to a friend… I am so sorry and weep over the departed one as I wept for Didymas…but nevertheless, against such things one can do nothing. Therefore comfort ye one another. I say, comfort one another with what? Paul doesn’t leave us with sugar coated misery and suffering, he gives us what we need to have hope. The reason we can have hope in this world is because of the work of Christ. His death and resurrection are what bring us hope. Hear the statement again by Paul… 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Many scholars believe this to be an early church confessional statement. Much like the Apostle’s Creed… 1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: 2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord: 3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: 4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell: 5. The third day he rose again from the dead: 6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: 7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead: 8. I believe in the Holy Ghost: 9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints: 10. The forgiveness of sins: 1l. The resurrection of the body: 12. And the life everlasting. Amen. According to Paul orthodox belief leads to right perspectives and right living. We have hope because Christ died and has conquered death. The cross is Jesus paying our death sentence and the resurrection is God accepting payment on our behalf. If Jesus had had His own sin to pay for then His death would have been the end of it. But because, the wages of sin is death did not apply to our Lord, death could not hold Him, but had to let Him go. Just like our Lord rose from the grave so too, because of the work of Christ, all who are asleep will at the return of Christ also rise and be reunited with their souls. The resurrection of Jesus is proof that there will also be the resurrection of all believers at His return. Notice with me one more thing before we move on… 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. You might think that the verse would read something like… 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so too will we be raised… It doesn’t say that. What it says shows us that Paul has so much confidence in Christ’s resurrection that he jumps to the amazing conclusion… even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. Notice how emphatic Paul is and notice the authority that comes with what he is telling us. Here is something that he received directly from the Lord. Jesus told Paul specifically how things are going to work… by a word from the Lord. Church, our Christian loved ones will not be “left behind” when it comes to the future resurrection. In fact, Jesus is going to so care for His beloved who have fallen asleep that they will go first when He calls His saints to meet Him in the air. In other words, the original language is very important…those who remain alive will have no advantage over those who are asleep.
The Lord gave Paul His Word and secondly the Lord Himself will see to it. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, The Greek construction is very clear in this verse either God the Father or the Son shouts the command. When Jesus, Himself, descends He will also give the command. Perhaps the command is as He commanded Lazarus who was also asleep or dead, Come Forth! Whatever the command is, it will be so authoritative that every dead body belonging to God’s people will rise all at the same time all over the world.
Notice, there will also be the voice of the archangel…perhaps the mighty angel we’ve seen in Revelation. There will also be the blast of the last trumpet. Then, the dead in Christ will rise first. Here again another example in the original language rise means snatched or plucked out. So, strong is the language here it is intended to give us a picture of the command of Christ being so powerful that it’s as if the command itself reaches into the graves and pulls our the bodies and remakes them in an instant reuniting them with their souls. In our Lord’s royal Parousia the Archangel gives a great announcement. Probably something to the effect similar to the announcing of the King’s presence, King Jesus is coming, get ready to meet the King! The Scriptures mention Michael specifically as an Archangel (Jude 9) and other Jewish writings name a few more. The point here is that this is no secret coming. Everyone on the planet will know. When Jesus returns He will bring all those who have fallen asleep with Him and the angels will also accompany Him and all those on earth will hear and see.
Trumpets were not primarily musical instruments but used to make grand announcements. Here the trumpet of God will blast, announcing our Lord’s return. In Joel 2 and Zephaniah 1, the trumpet of God is sounded to mark the Day of the Lord. This is why I connect this trumpet blast with the seventh trumpet in Revelation. Especially in light of 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul specifically calls this trumpet the last trumpet. So the point for the Thessalonian believers who feared the worst for their deceased loved ones, Paul is clear. First, they are not dead or nonexistent but it’s more like their bodies are sleeping. Second, they no longer had to fear that their loved ones would be left behind but that in fact they would be first to rise to meet their King. Some see a contradiction here but I want to show you that there is none. I don’t know if you’ve caught it or not… even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep… 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. How can the dead in Christ be brought with Jesus and be called to rise from the grave? Jesus is bringing the souls of those who died in the Lord with Him and He then calls from the bodies to rise. Then the souls and the resurrected bodies are reunited. I want to take us a little bit deeper today into the event of the second coming and the command of Christ to rise and to meet Him in the air. In so doing, I will share my personal view of the return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead. It has much to do with one Greek word and how Matthew and Paul use it. The word in the Greek is Parousia. If you study Christ’s second coming much at all you’ll no doubt run across this word. Books have been written about this word. It’s not so much the word but the meaning of the word that’s important. It’s the word used for the coming or visit of royalty. There are many different words that the NT writers could have used to refer to coming or visit. They chose the word that is used for royalty. This is the coming or return not just of Jesus but King Jesus and, in our text today, He is coming bringing his people with him. Now, it was a very common practice when the king visited a city that all the people would go to the edge or the city limits greeting the king and then escorting him into the city with great pomp and celebration. I believe this is exactly what we see in this passage. When a king came there would great celebrations, great feasts, there would speeches given to honor the king, and often a new era was inaugurated. Another important parallel is the people would go out to greet the King wearing new clothing. So, keeping with Historical Grammatical interpretation I believe this is exactly what we see when our King comes to visit where we live. King Jesus descends from heaven to earth bringing the souls of believers who have already died. Then those bodies are resurrected and instantly changed to glorified resurrection bodies, united with their souls and we who are still alive on earth are snatched out and all believers everywhere and throughout all history unite to greet our King and escort Him back to earth where Christ will set up His eternal kingdom and reign forever. But while we wait our hope can and must be getting stronger. We worship King Jesus even though we’ve never actually seen Him. We fellowship with other believers, other saints, other of the King’s subjects while we wait. Waiting in our day has taken a bad reputation. There are rooms designated for this…waiting rooms. No one likes a waiting room. No one likes standing in line at King’s Island for an hour waiting. But our waiting here is different. It really isn’t waiting like we might think but rather preparation. Are you prepared to meet the King. Most of the time when a preacher asks this question, he’s referring to salvation…are you saved? While that is the first step, what I’m referring to today is not salvation per se but are you as a born again saved Christian ready to meet the King? Have you prepared yourself? Are you about Him and His kingdom or still more concerned with your trivial kingdom? Are you becoming more and more like the King everyday? Are you obeying the Kings edicts and commands?
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. Bridging from point number two and continuing with that theme, we now arrive at the verse that includes all who are alive when Christ returns. After the resurrection of the dead then those who are still alive will also be changed in a twinkling of an eye and all of God’s people from Adam to the last one saved will all together be caught up in the air to greet and escort our sovereign King back. The English phrase, caught up or what many call the rapture of the Church is taught here. This is from the root in the Greek Harpozo, which has a flavor of wartime rescue by force. It is a very strong word, literally meaning that the command of our Lord which reverberates throughout the earth, by means of force snatches the dead out of their graves and snatches those who are alive up so powerfully and quickly that we (if we’re alive) probably won’t know what happened. King Jesus by means of victorious overtaking of planet earth. So, what is the end result of all this amazing activity? And so we will always be with the Lord. Conclusion- What we must realize that in this passage Paul’s goal is not to disclose everything there is about our Lord’s return. His goal is not to educate on the 2nd Coming per se but to encourage the Thessalonians who had been told by false teachers that their Christian loved ones were going to miss out on the future hope and being with Christ. Paul’s goal is to straighten out false teaching and encourage with the portion of truth that dealt with their struggles. SO, when people attempt to make this an exhaustive study on eschatology really are, to use the words from the text, snatching the passage out of context and to make it something not intended by the author. We can learn some wonderful truths that will also encourage us while we wait for the Lord to come. Application- 2 Peter 3:10–18 (ESV) 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. Lord’s Supper… Declaration of Grace- In the mercy of almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and bestows on them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In an email from Answers in Genesis within seconds of praying for a title…God is working. Commentaries used: NTC by Henriksen and Pillar Commentary by Green