I Thessalonians 4:13 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.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 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.
16 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:
17 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.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
We have looked at this passage before but there is more to take note of here. God was directing the apostle Paul to write words of encouragement as well as words of challenge to the saints in Thessalonica. The apostle Paul had done a very good job of teaching the truth. He taught that Jesus Christ could come back in his lifetime. That was true. It is also true that He could come back in our lifetime. The saints in Thessalonica had believed Paul, but they also witnessed some of their loved ones dying and Jesus Christ had not come back. Where did those loved ones go?
God does not want His children to be ignorant of the facts. As we noted before, those who die as saved individuals are asleep. They are resting in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not in torment. They no longer suffer any pain. They are not as those who die without hope.
This week we learned that one of our neighbours took his own life. He was 51. He was a very kind hearted man. However, he was different and some people could not accept that fact and they slandered him. Apparently he grew tired of that and did not know where to turn, and took his own life. I had the opportunity to witness to him more than once. He came over for Bible Studies for a short time. He claimed to have found God and stopped coming. That was a good indicator that he had not found the true God. He was Catholic and confused. His end is tragic. He died without hope. It did not need to end that way. When he stopped coming to our Bible studies, I still visited with him and kept the door open for him to come over if he wanted to. I believe he could see that we wanted to help him. However, he chose not to accept the help he needed.
There are far more people who die without hope than those who fall asleep in Jesus. Those who have saved loved ones that die need to know where their loved ones are. In verse 14 we are reminded that it is important that we believe that Jesus died and rose again. We talked previously of the importance of true Biblical belief.
Matthew 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
There is a danger in declaring something with the mouth, but not believing it in the heart.
Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Biblical belief is more than just mental consent to something. It requires a belief in the heart. This belief is brought about through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is working in each person’s heart. It is important for the person to listen to the work of the Holy Spirit. Every person knows that they do not meet God’s righteous standard in their life. The preaching of the Word of God helps the lost person to see their need to turn to God in repentance.
The man I mentioned earlier in this devotional was given the opportunity to turn to God in repentance and be saved. He was witnessed to several times. Probably others had spoken to him prior to my speaking to him. He knew about God. He knew about Jesus. However, out of his mouth he demonstrated that he did not believe in the true God nor in the true Jesus. His mouth revealed what was in his heart.
In I Corinthians 15 we are reminded that Jesus Christ is the firstfruits of those that sleep. He is the first to be resurrected and His resurrection made the way possible for other saints to be resurrected as well. Those who die having believed in the true Jesus and in His sacrificial death and resurrection are asleep in Him at this time. Their souls are in heaven and soon their bodies will be raised out of the graves and joined with their souls. Their bodies will be changed.
We read that Jesus will bring the souls of the saved with Him when He comes back in the clouds.
In verse 15 Paul reminded the saints that he was not giving his opinion. He was giving them the Word of the Lord. As we see there, Paul expected Jesus Christ to come back in his lifetime. He spoke of “we” as the saints that were alive and remaining. He spoke of those who were asleep as those that have gone on before. Those who are left alive at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ will not have any head start or hinder those who have died prior to the Lord’s return. It is not hard for Jesus Christ to raise the dead at the same time as those who are alive and changed into their heavenly bodies. God will make this happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. It will be an amazing thing. God has done many amazing things in the past, and this will not be impossible either.
In verse 16 we are reminded that the Lord will be in charge of the removal of the saints from this earth. This is a matter far beyond the realm of mere mortals. This requires the Word of the Creator God.
When the Lord comes back there will be a shout to announce His coming. There will also be the voice of the archangel and the trump of God sounding. The saints will have their ears tuned to this event.
We see here that the dead in Christ shall rise first. They will be on this earth so that as the saints leave, all will leave together. None will be left behind. None will need to catch up. It will be one happy family leaving this earth and entering Heaven in body, soul, and spirit.
In verse 17 we read that those who are alive at that time will be caught up together with the risen saints. We will all be taken up in the clouds. I watched a short clip of a helicopter that caught on fire in the air and crashed down to the ground. There will be no such thing at the resurrection of the saints. There will be no need for any type of space craft. Our new bodies will be able to leave this earth and pass through the atmosphere and enter into heaven without any harm.
We are reminded here that this event will bring all the New Testament saints into heaven to be with the Lord for ever. There will be no saints left on this earth to gaze up into heaven, wondering what is taking place. All the saints will be gone quickly. It seems that the lost will be so busy with their ungodly activities to even notice the removal of the few who will be taken up at that time. We know that the antichrist will come on the scene and he will convince those left behind to follow him. He will use lying signs and wonders to draw the lost together. Those who have heard the Gospel in this present age, but refused it, will not change their mind and be saved after the saved are gone. They will be hardened in their unbelief. The Bible warns of the importance of turning to the Lord now.
In verse 18 we are reminded to comfort one another with these words. Death is a reality that we all face. We do not know how long we have to live on this earth.
All those who are saved can take comfort in the fact that their saved loved ones have gone on to be with the Lord. Their souls are with the Lord now. Their bodies are rotting in the ground but they will be raised again to be reunited with their souls and to be with the Lord for ever. These are words of comfort. The key is to be saved now. It is extremely unwise to think that you can live for the devil and at the last moment you can turn to God for salvation. Personally I have witnessed several people who did not want to turn to the Lord and then they suffered some trauma and were not able to respond any longer to the Gospel. They may have turned to God in their last moments, but there is no way to know if they actually did. The wise person turns to God in repentance while of sound mind and body and then can give testimony of this to others who also need to be saved.
After death, there is no second chance for anyone. Death is final. After death comes judgment. God wants to comfort the saints. Many preachers and others want to comfort the lost. It is pointless to suggest a loved one went to heaven if they did not have a testimony of salvation. Empty words do not help anyone. Truth is essential and those who believe the truth are safe in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what Paul was directed to write both to the saints at Thessalonica and to all saints beyond that place and time.