As a bored child in church, I would sometimes turn to the back of a hymnal to find anything to occupy my time. There you could find random lists of things like the corresponding dates to the next several decades or so of Easter Sundays. This was somewhat alarming because the list in one particular hymnal ended at the year 2000. In my youthful ignorance, I assumed that the hymnal manufacturer had inside knowledge of the End Times. Having sat through a few sermons on Revelation, and my own time in the book, this was a frightening prospect. Such is the power of religious tradition, and ignorance of God’s Word.
This is where knowledge of God’s Word, His Truth, is so very important. Faith comes from hearing His Word, not fear. If something in the Bible makes you afraid, you may have misunderstood, or failed to rightly divide the Word. The Word of God is Truth. It is meant to set you free from fear, bondage, and even the bondage of religious tradition. Since God has provided so many answers to questions concerning the End Times, its sad to see people ignore what is written.
For Part 1 On The End Times – Its The End Of The World As We Know It
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 <KJV>)
Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians were some of the first written among what is commonly known as the Pauline Epistles, and two of the first books written in the New Testament around 52-53 AD. Paul had visited the area and had good success among the Gentile population, as well as the usual persecution. (Acts 17:1-15) Although written before Romans, Ephesians, and the letters to the Corinthians, in every early manuscript, the Thessalonian letters are always placed last. One must assume a divine inspiration, since it is necessary to understand the revelation of the Mystery, and your position in the Body of Christ, before you can receive God’s plan for the Church.
In chapter 4, Paul answers an important question, what happens to Believers who die before Jesus returns for His Body. Understand that many were expecting the immediate return of Jesus, maybe in their lifetime. Its important to be expectant, but God is the master timekeeper. Jesus will return for His Body at the perfect time. Paul addresses the issue with reassurance – he did not want them to be ignorant on the subject. Believers are children of God. (Romans 8:14-16, Galatians 3:24-27) Believers should have the Mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:9-15) That means God’s wisdom belongs to you. (Proverbs 2:1-22, Colossians 2:1-3, James 1:5-8) Which means you don’t have to be ignorant when it comes to the Truth of God’s Word!
The question was about the dead in Christ, those who had not experienced the redemption of their physical bodies. The answer – IF you believe that Jesus died and rose again – everything is predicated on this Truth – EVEN SO God will bring those which sleep in Jesus with Him. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 sounds a little awkward at first, so let’s slow it down a bit. A Believer is spiritually with God at the time of death. (Romans 8:35-39, 2 Corinthians 5:1-9, Ephesians 2:4-10, Philippians. 1:21-24, Hebrews 12:22-23) The physical body remains on Earth. You can now begin to see the importance of knowing who you are in Christ in order to fully understand what happens not only at death, but at the time of Jesus’ coming.
In verse 15, Paul makes it clear that what he is about to unveil came straight from the Lord. You cannot apply human reason to what Paul reveals. With a shout of the archangel, and the trump of God, those dead will rise first (rejoining their spirits). Immediately after, those alive will be transported to meet Jesus in the clouds, who has descended from Heaven (not to Earth). Believers will be with him forever. Then, Paul tells them to comfort themselves with these words. Why? Because its comforting to know that God has a plan for His kids. Its a GOOD plan. Its comforting to those who have lost loved ones who were Believers, those who will die before Jesus returns, and especially those who are still on Earth at His Coming.
Some may reason that this passage in Thessalonians proves there is a Rapture, but it does not say when. In fact, starting in the next chapter, the sequence of events is provided. Consider the passage a few lines at a time.
But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
(1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 <KJV>)
There was no need to expound upon the timing because Paul had already explained to them the sequence of events. Instead, he summarizes them. The Day of the Lord, and thief in the night, are both interesting phrases and locate immediately the timing of the event. This is talking about the 2nd Advent, when Jesus returns to the Earth, landing on the Mount of Olives. This occurs at the end of the Tribulation and it is in judgment, a surprise to the unrighteous that are ignorant of God’s Word. Jesus coming for His Body is never referred to as a thief coming in the night. (Matthew 24:43-44 – Note that these verses are in the middle of a passage on events at the END of the Tribulation, see also Matthew 24:27-31, 2 Peter 3:8-10, Revelation 3:1-3, 16:15) All of these passages refer to a coming day of judgment.
The timing and events surrounding the Day of the Lord, are plentiful in Scripture. Consider the number of Old Testament verses that mention the same event, the similarities in their descriptions, and the tone of the verses. This event is not intended for the Body of Christ. (Isaiah 2:10-12, 13:6-11, 34:8, 61:2, 63:1-6; Daniel 2:44-45, 7:13-14, Amos 5:18-19, Joel 2:1-11, Zephaniah 1:8-18; 2:1-3, Zechariah 14:1-7, Malachi 4:1-3, Matthew 24:21-31, 25:31-46, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, Jude 1:14-21, Revelation 19:11-21) This is a day of vengeance against the enemies of God. This is a day of judgment, fulfilling the prophecies concerning the children of Israel, and the nations (Gentiles), but NOT the Church.
For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. (1 Thessalonians 5:3-5 <KJV>)
Where have you heard the phrase “travail upon a woman”? It is in the passage noted above, Isaiah 13:6-11. Look at the change of pronouns in this passage – “they” versus “ye, brethren” and “we” – remember, this letter is addressed to Believers. The Body of Christ is not in darkness, they are children of light. That “day” will not overtake Believers like a thief.
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
(1 Thessalonians 5:6-10 <KJV>)
Again, note the contrast – those who sleep versus those who watch, the drunk versus the sober, and those of the day versus those of the night. Those of the day are armed with the breastplate of faith and love, and the hope of salvation. And then the key verse, Believers are NOT appointed to wrath. The Tribulation is NOT for the Body of Christ. The last line repeats what was explained in chapter 4 – whether dead or alive at Jesus’ coming, Believers will be with him.
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 5:23 <KJV>)
Five times in 1 Thessalonians Paul mentions a different perspective on the coming of the Lord, usually at the end of each chapter. In the first, Jesus delivers Believers from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10) Paul’s joy and triumph at Believers standing before Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20) That Believers are unblameable in holiness before God. (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13) The revelation of the Rapture received directly from the Lord is revealed. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) And finally, that Believers are sanctified wholly, spirit, mind, and body, preserved blameless when Jesus comes. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
The revelation of Jesus coming for His Church may be too much for some. However, the Believers at Thessalonica were a model church. They had given up idols, turned to the Living God, and were waiting for the return of Jesus. They believed the Word and became imitators of the Lord, spreading their faith throughout Achaia (Greece) and Macedonia. (1 Thessalonians 1:3-10) They received Paul’s teaching as the Word of God, and put it into practice even in the face of persecution. (1 Thessalonians 2:7-16) They stayed true to the Word, growing in love, even after Paul’s departure. (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12) They were primed and uniquely prepared to receive even more revelation on God’s plan for His Church.
God has a plan to save the Church from the wrath to come. Whether you believe this or not will not change your standing as a child of God. However, before dismissing it totally, read the Pauline Epistles carefully. Get to know Jesus, the nature of God, His great love for His children, and how He views you as a member of the Body of Christ and joint heir of Jesus. Don’t just take the opinions of theologians, or the reasoning of men, hear the Truth straight from God’s Word.
The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.
(Psalm 145:8-9 <KJV>)
God is Love. A Born Again Believer is part of His family. He promises to never leave you or forsake you, and to daily load you with benefits. Jesus became sin in order that all can be made righteous by faith. Get a revelation of God’s Love, and its much easier to receive the rest of His many promises.
May God Richly Bless You!
End of Part 2